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Dagg the X-Factor for RWC glory

opinion Chris Matthews

By Chris Matthews tvnz.co.nz Writer

Published: 9:26AM Sunday September 25, 2011 Source: ONE Sport

The All Blacks two previous best Rugby World Cup campaigns have been built on the back of two outstanding youngsters and last night Israel Dagg did enough to suggest that he could well join this elite group.

It was the freakish Michael Jones that was the star of the 1987 World Cup as the All Blacks won the inaugural tournament and then it was the one and only Jonah Lomu in 1995 that took world rugby by storm.

Both were little known and both had the fearlessness of youth but most importantly they had that unquantifiable X-Factor.

Is Israel Dagg the next All Black to do exactly the same? Quite possibly.

After controversially ousting veteran Mils Muiliana from the custodian position, the 22-year-old repaid the faith in spades as he starred in the All Blacks' convincing 37-17 win over France to finish on the top of Pool A.

Dagg was in everything as he scored two tries and linked with Daniel Carter in a formidable one-two that has all the punch and more of any duo in world rugby.

He was also assured from the back as he ably took down any high ball thrown at him and was solid in defence to boot. Just what you want from a fullback really.

There was a little bit of concern - but not much - when he hobbled off the field with a cut to his thigh but All Blacks coach Graham Henry had no hesitation in validating his value to the squad.

"He is the form fullback. He was dynamic most of the night and he scored a couple of great tries, too," Henry said.

Regardless of being stranded on 98-Tests, Muiliana can now all but kiss any chance of playing a major role in the All Blacks winning the World Cup goodbye.

Sure he may start against Canada next Sunday and then possibly bring up his 100th Test a week later in a quarter-final against either Scotland or Argentina, but when the World Cup hits crunch time - Dagg is your man.

He may have only played nine Tests but in his last three he has been the star of the show and if the All Blacks are still standing come October 23 you can guarantee that Jones, Lomu and Dagg will deserve to be uttered in the same sentence.

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