Cape Town - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen expects Israel Dagg to be away
from the game for an extended period of time with his troublesome knee injury.
It is a recurring injury that has affected Dagg for much of
his career. He damaged his knee in the Super Rugby round three clash against
the Reds earlier this season for which he had to undergo surgery.
Dagg admitted last week that the injury is still there but
that he has been able to manage and play through it.
However, it now appears things have gotten to the point
where he may need an extended break or even surgery.
The 29-year-old started all three British and Irish Lions
Tests as well as all three of the All Blacks' Rugby Championship matches thus
And this busy schedule appears to have caught up with the
versatile back with Hansen admitting 'he's going to need some time away from
"It doesn't look great at this stage," said Hansen
rather pointedly. "It looks like he's going to need some time away from
the game. But until I get all the information it will be pointless me trying to
tell you how long and what the problem is. Once we get that we'll let you
Fortunately for the All Blacks, they have plenty of options
at wing including Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane, Julian Savea, Nehe-Milner
Skudder and on-sabbatical Ben Smith
The door has opened for Milner-Skudder who has an
opportunity to get back to his best after missing most of the 2016 season
"It tests you, but we've got a lot of faith in the
systems we have and whilst some of these guys are very new, they're surrounded
by guys who have been around a long time," said Hansen of the injury situation.
"The culture of the team is strong and everyone is
working hard together to try and get better. Someone's misfortune is another
guy's opportunity. The attitude we've taken is
yes, we've lost these guys through injury, and you throw in Bender's sabbatical,
but its giving other people an opportunity and through that opportunity we'll
grow some depth."
In terms of Milner-Skudder, who scored a try in his first
test back since the 2015 World Cup last week in New Plymouth, Hansen wanted to
see more of what he produced against the Pumas.
"He'll be back on the right side which will probably
suit him a bit better, [though] he went well there [on the left]. He'll get
high ball, and we expect him to catch that, and work with Damian [McKenzie] and
Rieko [Ioane], so Damian is not having to cover everything with the high ball
catch like he did last week.
"Those three guys need to work in tandem and make sure
we're covering that backfield well. And if there's an opportunity to score a
try, we want him to score it. In the past he's done that well."