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Israel Dagg blasts Crusaders, weighs in on Rob Penney's future

By Ned Lester
Head Coach Rob Penney of the Crusaders looks on. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Former Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg has joined the growing chorus of fans and pundits in finally conceding the reigning Super Rugby Pacific champions’ standing at the bottom of the table is a fair reflection of the team’s current quality.


It’s taken seven losses with just one win for the 2011 Rugby World Cup winner to have his hope of an eighth title in as many years squashed. The weekend’s hefty 37-15 loss to fellow bottom dwellers the Western Force appears to have proven too much for even the most optimistic Crusaders fans to overlook.

With results taking a sour turn in 2024, new coach Rob Penney has quickly found himself in the firing line.

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As Dagg bluntly illustrated when reacting to the loss, the evidence of the team’s flaws is vast.

“It’s a difficult time for the Crusaders at the moment,” Dagg said on SENZ Breakfast. “37-15, after a start where Sevu Reece makes a break, Levi Aumua scores first and you think ok, they might have turned a corner here. But, man, the game just unravelled for them.

“They were penalised heavily; they’re the most penalised team in the competition and a lot of those penalties are in their control.

“For seven years they never had a maul try scored against them. On the weekend, they had three tries scored against them by the Western Force; who in that forward pack is going to be in the Wallabies? Probably none if I’m going to be completely honest.

“They miss the most tackles in the competition. They’re at the bottom of the table in all stats.

“They have the worst lineout success in the competition. And that’s going from winning competitions with arguably the greatest lock combination in Super Rugby. You’ve got Scott Barrett out, Sam Whitelock’s gone. It is not happy hunting for the Crusaders at the moment.


“They get Codie Taylor back this week, but is that going to be enough? Probably not.

“It was hard to watch. Defensively, we’re lacking any passion, we’re lacking any certainty.

“You start to feel for Rob Penney because the finger is being pointed at him, but most of this is within the players’ control; 16 penalties, most of them for offside ruck infringements, that’s player decision-making that has been putting their team under so much pressure.

“Look, it was poor. It was disappointing. I’ll have to concede and say this is probably going to be a difficult year.


“I thought they may have turned a corner, but you lose to the Waratahs and you are deflated, you spend a whole week together and then you put out a performance like that. It was disappointing.”


Even with the team going from hero to zero, Dagg argued it’s hard to see the coach paying the price, questioning whether a Crusaders coach had ever been fired for poor results.

Joining Penney in the coach’s box is a relatively young group consisting of James Marshall, Dan Perrin, the only recently retired Matt Todd and the man rumoured to be the future Crusaders head coach, Tamati Ellison.

Ellison appears to be the most likely candidate within that group to step up if Penney were to be dismissed, but the club could also look outside that crew for some more veteran mentorship to help develop the youthful environment.

“They’re a really inexperienced coaching group,” Dagg added. “Are you just setting them up to fail? They’ve got nothing to lose. Nothing to lose and those conversations will be had.

“A lot of people will be asking for Rob Penney to move on. I went through the socials yesterday and I was having a read and a lot of them were pointing the finger at Rob Penney, but also pointing the finger at a lot of players. For me, it’s probably more about player accountability.”


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Abe 3 hours ago
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Turlough 7 hours ago
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