Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

First Take: Ben Smith excels as fullback

Ben Smith of the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.
Ben Smith of the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.

Time to encourage a Ben Smith v Israel Dagg test fullback debate.

Smith has surprised a few of us whereas Dagg is struggling to match the brilliant early signs, not helped by the Crusaders' dour methods.

Read: Highlanders hold out Hurricanes

Fullback Smith helped spark the clash between the Highlanders and Hurricanes into life, after a horrible first half contest. Smith is direct and alert.

Dagg - the test incumbent - is in a bit of a slumber although his long punting remains a serious weapon.

Smith was dealt a rough hand by the All Blacks, who used and abused his rise as a test wing by plonking him in the unfamiliar centres last year. Smith is an outside back - wing or fullback. He deserved better. The All Blacks have a few mighty wing options though.

The country used to fire up about one-on-one test selections.

Memory says debate would rage. Smith v Dagg has potential to remind us of past fun, when issues like Spencer v Mehrtens and Marshall v Kelleher were centre stage.

If someone did one of those hasty unscientific polls with large degrees of inaccuracy, Smith might get the public vote this week. There is a swing against Dagg, who has lost his mojo and is probably tainted in some minds by the World Cup sleeping pill nightmare.

But Hurricanes pivot Beauden Barrett did nothing when it counted to keep a test contest with Aaron Cruden going. Even ancient tight forward Brad Thorn hunted him down.

- NZ Herald

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