Israel Dagg showed strength of mind - as well as leg - to come back from an injury most, including the All Black selectors, thought would rule him out of the World Cup.

In late-March he tore his thigh muscle off his bone while making a clearing punt against the Stormers at Cape Town. The injury was so severe it required almost immediate surgery and so rare nobody had any firm idea on when he could return.

One chance against South Africa at Port Elizabeth was all Dagg needed to prove he was not only ready for international rugby, but ready to challenge Mils Muliaina's status as starting fullback.

Dagg is a gifted runner with an instinct for a gap. While the term "natural athlete" is over-used, in Dagg's case it is entirely accurate. He was a talented fast bowler through the Hawkes Bay and Central Districts age groups and was earmarked for bigger things until rugby took over.

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Described, along with his great mate and fellow Bay product Zac Guildford, as a "rascal" by assistant coach Wayne Smith, Dagg's love for the game is writ large on his face.

As his off-field discipline has improved, so has his rugby. It took All Black rejection in 2009 and a change of franchise to the Crusaders for the penny to drop, but Dagg looks primed for a long and highlight-speckled career.

* Position: Fullback/ Wing

* Tests: 7

* Born: June 6, 1988, in Marton

* Stats: 1.86m, 95kg

* Teams: Hawkes Bay and Crusaders