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'I was really close to signing for Leinster. They gave my contract to James Lowe!'

All Blacks legend Israel Dagg was the guest on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Isreal Dagg made his Test debut against Ireland in 2010.
Isreal Dagg made his Test debut against Ireland in 2010.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated Jul 18th 2022, 3:22 PM

AS THE DUST settles on Ireland’s historic series success, there are few people better placed to deliver the view from New Zealand than All Blacks legend Israel Dagg.

The World Cup winner, who earned 66 Test caps, joined Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra podcast for members of The42.

‘Izzy’ gaves his views on what went wrong for the All Blacks and how impressed he was with Ireland’s performances.

Dagg, who retired due to injury in 2019, also spoke about he very nearly became a team-mate of the likes of Johnny Sexton back in 2016 when the All Blacks visited Dublin to play against Ireland.

“I was actually going to sign for Leinster,” Dagg told The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

“I was pretty close. I was really close to signing for Leinster. What stopped me from signing was it was so cold! It was freezing. I’m from Christchurch where it’s very cold but that place is on another level.

“I went to the Leinster headquarters with Isa Nacewa and saw the whole complex. I loved it. I had to try to convince the wife, she was obviously a big part of it. She said no. 

“I turned the deal down, came back to New Zealand, and they actually gave my contract to James Lowe! 

“So it was a better decision in the end, eh? Things happen for a reason.

“I turned it down, James Lowe goes over, he turns into an absolute superstar, and look what he’s doing for Ireland now. If I look for a positive in it, you signed a genuine winger for Ireland and he’s doing awesome. I’m proud of him.”

new-zealand-all-blacks-israel-dagg Dagg visited Leinster in November 2016, when the All Blacks came to Dublin to play Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Dagg said he does sometimes wonder what might have been had he signed the deal with Leinster.

“I do, I do, because I never really got to experience anything outside of New Zealand. I went to Japan for two months towards the end of my career but my knee was very bad, I couldn’t really play, I was just not in a happy place. My body was breaking down.

“So I never got to understand what rugby means to other nations and what it means to different players. And how good would it have been playing with world-class players over in Ireland or in England or wherever?

“But in saying that, I had a pretty special career. I started when I was still at school playing for Hawke’s Bay, played the grades, and got to experience what I feel was a golden era in New Zealand Rugby.

“I got to play with the greats of all-time, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith… the backline was freakish. So I pinch myself, but I would have loved to have gone and experienced a different culture.”

Dagg gave a very honest assessment of where New Zealand rugby finds itself after the All Blacks’ series defeat to Ireland.

He provided insight into under-pressure head coach Ian Foster, while Dagg also said that he feels All Blacks captain Sam Cane could benefit from having that leadership responsibility taken from him for now.

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“It’s not a good look when you’ve got your captain going off with 15 minutes left and the Test in the balance,” said Dagg.

“For me, Sam Cane is a classy player. I feel the captaincy is dampening him, putting too much weight on his shoulders. If I’m going to be completely honest, I’d probably put the captaincy on someone like Sam Whitelock’s shoulders.

sam-cane Sam Cane's role as All Blacks captain has been questioned. Source: Photosport/Grant Down/INPHO

“If you take that responsibility away from Sam Cane and just give him the opportunity to go and play, I reckon it would free him up. He’s not a bad player but at the moment, he’ll be sitting at home kicking himself in the guts. I’ve felt it. He will be blaming himself and putting all the weight of New Zealand on his shoulders.

“He will be reading every single article, his wife will be reading them. Take that away from him and give him time to find his confidence and belief in his ability. That would help him. He won’t want to surrender but I think that would be the best option.”

Elsewhere on today’s pod, Gavan, Berch, and Murray broke down Ireland’s third Test victory and discussed where this historic achievement leaves them ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.

To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella, as well as every Wednesday with Eoin Toolan, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie

First published today at 13.36

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