New Zealand's Israel Dagg runs in to score against
Scotland. REUTERS/David Moir
Sparky fullback Israel Dagg has declared himself fit to
play and is waiting an endorsement from the selectors.
While a return to duty against Wales on Sunday should be
straightforward, several other decisions have given the
selectors plenty of thought, assistant coach Ian Foster
The choice between Aaron Smith and Piri Weepu at halfback was
tough while a calf injury for hooker Keven Mealamu and rib
problems for Beauden Barrett had also created issues.
"I had a week off to sort out my little bruise. Ready to go,"
"She was a funny, old one. I just got a bit of an elbow to
the head and was knocked out in the air and landed on my
buttocks as Shag (Steve Hansen) would say," he recalled.
"She was pretty tight for the first two days but she has
slowly loosened up and now I am running freely, doing my
weights normally so it has loosened up really well. "It feels
100 per cent now."
If he is picked, Dagg will have some other things to worry
about - like the pitch at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. He
had heard about the vagaries of the surface but never played
Traction looked as though it could be an issue but, if he was
picked, he would use the captain's run the day before the
test to choose the length of his sprigs wisely.
Wales have bigger things to worry about after five
Foster was unsure how Wales coach Warren Gatland would be
dealing with his current team crises and was more concerned
with the All Blacks rather than opposition issues.
"He will respond like any other coach, try to fix it."
Clearly Wales had not gone as well as they wanted against
Argentina and Samoa but that only highlighted how prepared
teams had to be for every test they played.
"We have talked about us building through this tour and
making sure we prepare well because, if you don't prepare
well, if you don't do Sunday to Friday well, then you can get
bitten on Saturday," Foster said.
Matches against Scotland and Italy were about getting
everyone in the touring squad involved and managing their
workloads at the end of the season.
The other aim was to continue the development and build
"We have done some really good things," Foster said.
The All Blacks had responded to a variety of unexpected
challenges. Some got them flustered at patches but they had
been able to nut out a solution to those issues.
"It is going to be really important this week because, while
there have been some questions about their (Wales) recent run
of form, their eye is on this game.
"We know there will be plenty of heat coming at us and we are
going to have to figure our way through that. Quite frankly,
that has been the biggest lesson for us, how to learn through
The All Blacks setpiece was strong, their defence and
reaction to some phase play had to be tightened while there
were a range of smaller areas to keep fixing.
The changing tempo in tests, players finding themselves in
situations they were not used to - these are the issues the
All Blacks have to confront.