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Israel Dagg: 'I was really close to signing for Leinster'

By Ian Cameron
Israel Dagg in action for the Highlanders in 2010. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg has said he was really close to signing for Irish giants Leinster – a contract he claims ended up going to James Lowe.

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Capped 66 times by the All Blacks, Dagg says he walked away from the deal because he thought the climate in Ireland was too cold and his wife didn’t fancy it.

Now 34, Dagg admits he came very close, even going as far as being given a tour of Leinster’s facilities in Dublin back in 2016.

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“I was actually going to sign for Leinster,” Dagg told The42 Rugby Weekly Extra. “I was pretty close. I was really close to signing for Leinster. What stopped me from signing was it was so cold! It was freezing. I’m from Christchurch where it’s very cold but that place is on another level.

“I went to the Leinster headquarters with Isa Nacewa and saw the whole complex. I loved it. I had to try to convince the wife, she was obviously a big part of it. She said no.

“I turned the deal down, came back to New Zealand, and they actually gave my contract to James Lowe!

“So it was a better decision in the end, eh? Things happen for a reason.

“I turned it down, James Lowe goes over, he turns into an absolute superstar, and look what he’s doing for Ireland now. If I look for a positive in it, you signed a genuine winger for Ireland and he’s doing awesome. I’m proud of him.”

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Dagg did leave New Zealand, playing for the Canon Eagles for a couple of months, although he admits he regrets not playing more rugby outside of NZ.

“I do [regret it], because I never really got to experience anything outside of New Zealand. I went to Japan for two months towards the end of my career but my knee was very bad, I couldn’t really play, I was just not in a happy place. My body was breaking down.

“So I never got to understand what rugby means to other nations and what it means to different players. And how good would it have been playing with world-class players over in Ireland or in England or wherever?”

In truth it worked out for Leinster, as by his own admission, Dagg’s body was ‘falling apart’. He retired at the relatively young age of 31 back in 2019.

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