Israel Dagg has decided to play club rugby in Japan rather than for his Hawke's Bay province as he rolls the dice for probably the last time on his All Blacks career.

Dagg, who will start at fullback for the Crusaders in their dead rubber match against the Blues in Christchurch tonight, needs game time as he attempts to make his way back to the national team before next year's World Cup.

His right knee - effectively rubbing bone on bone and without cartilage - is just about shot, but he is desperate to play in another World Cup after missing the last one in England in 2015 due to injury and form, and the Weekend Herald understands he believes the best way to go about it is playing in the host country of the next one once Super Rugby is over.

That means he won't be available for the Rugby Championship or November tour, although he was unlikely to have been selected for those squads anyway. One upside is that he will receive a healthy boost to his bank balance as he ventures offshore for the first time in his career before returning to what will be his last season at the Crusaders next year.


This season, the Crusaders have already qualified for a home playoff as long as they keep progressing and they will be planning on hosting the final on August 4 after winning the last one against the Lions in Johannesburg last year, the first time an overseas team has won a Super Rugby championship in South Africa.

Dagg, 30, has played 66 tests, the last in September last year when he started on the right wing against Argentina in New Plymouth.

Dagg's degenerative knee condition, plus a concussion a week after his return to the Crusaders in a bad mid-air challenge against the Brumbies in Canberra in April, has severely curtailed his opportunities since.

He wasn't required for the Crusaders against the Highlanders last weekend, despite being fit, so will relish the chance against the Blues while probably hoping he isn't cursed by a new problem.

With David Havili, George Bridge, Seta Tamanivalu and Manasa Mataele as outside back options, Dagg will not have an easy task winning game time for the rest of the season, and that's exactly what he needs to have any chance of impressing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Havili, capped three times for the All Blacks last year, played his best game of the season for the Crusaders in their big win over the Highlanders in Christchurch last weekend, while Bridge has scored 12 tries in 14 games and Tamanivalu is a robust right wing who can easily slot into the midfield.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson this week gave an insight into his selection difficulties when he said: "David has been absolutely outstanding, that's a tough call.

"Dagger [Dagg] deserves an opportunity. He is a great player and has been great for us. It's his chance to take an opportunity."

Dagg was a breakout star at the 2011 World Cup, but has had a terrible run with injuries, including a dislocated shoulder and a torn quadriceps. He has generally impressed in the black jersey and can play right wing just as well as fullback.

But he probably needs to find something special to displace the likes of Ben Smith, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo as an option in the All Blacks back three and he doesn't have long to find it.