In the inflated squads which are so in vogue these days, a fit Israel Dagg is likely to be in the All Blacks training group for the Lions series.

"Fit" has a much wider connotation than it did when Colin Meads and company were doing their business or Stu Wilson was racing around on the wing.

It details a player's physical ability to cope with the high aerobic demands in the modern game and also how much he is up to speed with the changing styles in rugby, the tactical approaches and whether his skills fit the direction and template coaches have for their sides.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen talks a great deal about the subtle changes in rugby and how teams have to keep evolving to challenge success.


Dagg has worn the national jersey 61 times since his 2010 debut in a test career which started at fullback, has suffered form and injury blips, re-invented itself and become a wing and roving organiser in the past few seasons. His ability under the high ball, his own kicking prowess, positional play and experience have pushed him ahead of other specialist wings.

This All Black season is huge and it may require a similar leap of faith from the selectors if they pick Dagg to start the test series against the Lions. He'll be in the squad but injury to his right knee then surgery has restricted his Super Rugby minutes.

He returned to rugby after damaging his knee against the Reds in Brisbane in early March but that diet has been a bit of club rugby and travelling to Fiji as part of the extended Crusaders group. After half a club game, Dagg said he was fit to start against the Chiefs last night but coach Scott Robertson disagreed.

The Crusaders have games against the Rebels and Highlanders before their match against the visiting Lions which is a fortnight before the opening test. If Dagg is chosen and survives those matches, it's a small palette to confirm his test readiness.

Others are lining up for the work. Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie and Jordie Barrett have stacks of game time and can cover the utility back three role from the bench and have been producing layers of that evidence in Super Rugby.

It's not as if Dagg has a history of coming straight out of the injury blocks into top form and the All Blacks will be wary about choosing more players to go along with captain Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Liam Squire or maybe Nehe Milner-Skudder who will be on lean playing rations going into the series.