I am probably like many people in hoping to see more of the same from Israel Dagg when he plays in Canberra tonight.

I can relate to his situation over the past six or seven months - of being injured and not being able to play at a time when he really wanted to be fit and on the pitch. He'd have been working really hard on his rehabilitation and recovery and watching firstly the All Blacks win another World Cup where the back three - whichever combination - performed well.

Then he will have seen more players emerge, the likes of Damian McKenzie, in the early rounds of Super Rugby. It's never easy to be injured, but it's even harder when you've been an established All Black and you have to watch so many good, young players take their opportunities.

But I've been impressed with Dagg. Firstly, by the way he decided to turn down overseas offers. He's made a commitment to be here and you have to respect that. There's plenty of money to be made elsewhere but it shows his desire to get back into that black jersey.


Secondly, I was really amazed at how well he played in his first game back for the Crusaders. I think in my day, we used to come back from longer injuries maybe 70-80 per cent ready and then it would take two or three games to feel your way back into it.

That's not what happens now, or at least that's not what happened with Dagg. He had a bit of a run-around in club rugby and then was back, 100 per cent and with the Crusaders.

The coaching, medical and conditioning staff obviously wanted to make sure he was bang on before they put him out there and he certainly looked to be.

He was confident from the start, got involved early and was full of running.

That's the key for him, to not worry about having to prove himself to anyone who may have written him off. That's just baggage he doesn't need. He's at his best when he plays with a smile on his face and has no other goal but to enjoy himself.

When he does that, as he did last week, he sends a strong reminder to everyone that he can still play well and can start putting pressure on others who have been with the All Blacks recently.

If he can play as well as he did last week against the Brumbies and stay in that sort of form, then he'll end up there or thereabouts with the All Blacks. He brings a bit of X-factor which is maybe something the Crusaders have been missing this season and I even wonder if he might make the difference tonight.

I'd imagine it's going to be a close game. The Brumbies are tough to beat over there but the Crusaders are a team with the potential to win and it might be Dagg who gets them home.

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