"Two more sleeps" until Dagg with destiny
AUCKLAND, 21 Oct. – Like a child waiting impatiently for Christmas Day to arrive, New Zealand full back Israel Dagg is excitedly counting down the hours until he takes the field at Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final against France.
“It's two more sleeps,” he said on Friday during the official team announcement. “I just can’t wait."
While the opportunity to play in a Rugby World Cup Final and hold aloft the the coveted Webb Ellis Cup would rank as a pinnacle in any rugby player’s career, Dagg’s presence on the pitch on Sunday is all the more special following a year that has been marred by injury.
The 23-year-old’s Rugby World Cup aspirations were dealt a heavy blow in May after a thigh injury and subsequent surgery cut short his Super Rugby season with the Crusaders.
"I guess it has been a challenge,” the full back said. “It was a serious injury and doubts crept into my mind, dealing with the adversity.
“I had a good rehab plan with the All Blacks and Canterbury and I just had to do everything right and do my work. Then when I had the opportunity I had to prove I was capable of doing the job. I just went out there and played my game and luckily things went my way."
“It’s pretty surreal that I’m here today.”
Despite the pressure of starting in a World Cup Final, Dagg believes the magnitude of the match simply serves to provide more motivation.
“It makes you really excited,” he said. "You are playing in a World Cup Final now and you just want to go out there and turn that pressure or anxiety into excitement or good anger out on the field.”
After making his All Blacks debut against Ireland last year, Dagg quickly proved his credentials on the wing for New Zealand before taking over the No.15 jersey from veteran Mils Muliaina.
While some may have faltered in filling such revered boots, the Hawke’s Bay full back believes the support of his All Blacks teammates has given him the confidence to perform in the Test rugby arena.
"We have a great team around us and it makes things easier when the team around you does their job,” he said. “Everyone knows what they're doing and what the game plan is. I try to treat each game the same whether it is with Hawke’s Bay or the Crusaders or the All Blacks.
"Obviously with the All Blacks there is a bit more pressure as the whole country is watching, but I try not to get caught up in that and just go out there and play my game with a clear head."
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