The rugby world should know in the coming days what Israel Dagg’s plans are for his future, and it looks like good news for New Zealand.
Dagg is off contract in 2017 and the last of three high-profile All Blacks in negotiations ahead of the season, along with Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith.
Cruden was the first to declare his intention, signing a three-year deal with Montpellier for a reported $3.6 million, while Smith confirmed he was staying put earlier this week.
Dagg’s good friend Cory Jane seemed to accidentally let slip the news that Dagg might be leaning towards staying in a recent radio interview, when discussing Smith’s retention, and Dagg spoke like a man staying in Christchurch on Friday.
The 28-year-old told RUGBY.com.au that everyone would know his plans in the next few days, after months of rumours about his choice.
“I'll do some thinking but I'm pretty sure in the next few days, everyone will know what I'm doing, so it'll be good - Israel Dagg.
That his biggest rival for the New Zealand fullback spot in Smith has re-signed would not change his thinking, Dagg said, happy to play any role alongside a player he rates as ‘the best in the world’.
In 2016, Dagg and Smith interchanged between wing and fullback, in a team stacked with outside back depth and Dagg seemed to draw a parallel between the pair's life stage when discussion Smith's new contract.
“I've got a lot of respect for ‘Bender’ - he's the best player in the world, he's quality, he's a great man,” Dagg said.
“If I stay, I'll hopefully be playing with him, he'll be there and hopefully I can be there.
“If I go then, I just I don't know.
“He's signed, it's a great thing for New Zealand rugby and a great thing for his family. I'm about to have a family as well.”
Dagg said he wasn’t distracted by the constant contract speculation, focused on simply following on from a 2016 in which he found his way back to the top of the Kiwi tree.
“It is pretty tough but it is what it is and I've just got to focus on playing good footy because if you're not playing good footy, no one will want you,” he said.
“The main thing for me is just playing well and I really want to do well for this franchise, Crusaders.
“They've done a lot for me but I've never won a championship, so hopefully I can turn that around this year and do that and just see what happens.”
The Crusaders front office have been openly optimistic about retaining Dagg and new coach Scott Robertson was similarly positive on Friday.
“He's a great personality, he's loved by all and he creates a lot of attention,” he said.
“He's such an important Crusader and he hasn't won a title, so he's got that in the back of his mind and we're really hopeful [he’ll stay].”
The Crusaders take on the Reds, Samoa and the Blues in their Brisbane Tens pool, though Dagg won’t be featuring due to an NZR mandated 12-week off-season break.