Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

All Blacks: New-look back three in sync - Dagg

The current All Black back three have been together for only three tests - although it doesn't feel like it.

After they looked so impressive against France in June it was hard to believe it was the first time wings Julian Savea and Ben Smith had linked with fullback Israel Dagg as a trio.

The dynamic triumvirate are likely to be selected to start for the All Blacks in their opening test of the Rugby Championship against Australia in Sydney on Saturday night.

Despite having had at least a week off since the end of their respective teams' Super rugby campaigns, all three players looked dangerous for the All Blacks during their practice matches against Canterbury and Wellington in Lower Hutt last Friday night.

Smith and Savea each found the tryline, while Dagg made a scintillating break against Canterbury to put any concerns about his early-season form slump behind him.

The All Blacks have a busy week of preparation ahead of them but Dagg said he was pleased with how quickly he had formed a rapport with Smith and Savea.

"We've played three tests now together so it's pretty quick to get to know each other but we've played Super rugby for a couple of years now and played against each other," Dagg said. "But it's pretty easy to translate into this team, everyone knows their roles, everyone knows the players so I'm enjoying the combination back there, working hard for each other.

"We've got a lot of confidence in each other and I think Cory Jane's at home getting a bit sad about it but we are just doing our thing."

Dagg's playful jibe at Jane is another reminder of how awash New Zealand rugby is with top talent. Jane will be keen to return to the fold once he recovers from a serious knee injury he suffered this year.

Jane had a mortgage on the All Black No14 jersey during the past few years, but his time off the field has opened the door for Smith, whose irresistible form with the Highlanders this season demanded his inclusion somewhere in the All Blacks' starting XV.

He was one of the form players during their 3-0 clean sweep against France in June and Dagg said it was no shock the new-look back three worked so well together with only limited preparation time.

"I'm not surprised, it's our job, it's what we've got to do. If we are going to go out there and play half-hearted and not connect well, then we won't click together. So we've just got to transition well and start talking and get this combination right because everyone knows we don't have a long time together to get it right."

Dagg has never lost a test against Australia in six previous outings.


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