Steve Hansen has a war on his hands to retain star winger/fullback Israel Dagg for the 2019 World Cup.
A French newspaper has reported that a triumvirate of French clubs headed by cash rich Toulon approached Dagg after he starred in the All Blacks’ win against France in Paris.
The 28 year old Hawkes Bay native has had a stunning season in his comeback to the All Black team after being left out of the 2015 squad. He was the leading try-scorer for the season with ten tries ahead of the likes of Beauden Barrett (9 tries) and Ben Smith (8 tries). He also lead in the metres gained and clean breaks categories and perhaps has not received the acclaim he deserves as the sensational form of Beauden Barrett has hogged the headlines and awards.
According to the French newspaper, Midi Olympique, Dagg and Malakai Fekitoa had face to face meetings with the Toulon management, with Dagg receiving a contract offer.
According to @midi_olympique Israel Dagg & Malakai Fekitoa met Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal last week in a “salon discret” of a Paris hotel
— gavin mortimer (@gavinmortimer7) November 28, 2016
There is also strong interest in signing Dagg from top division clubs Bordeaux and Toulouse. Toulon have had a galaxy of star signings in its history, with the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, George Gregan, Tana Umaga and more recently Ma’a Nonu and Bryan Habana all pulling on the Toulon red jersey at Stade Mayol. They are also unafraid of ruffling coaching feathers as they showed when signing a very young Sonny Bill Williams for his first contract in rugby union by breaking his league contract with Canterbury Bulldogs.
Lead by their charismatic and outspoken president Mourad Boudjellal, Toulon have never been shy about their ambitions and their coffers seem even deeper in recent years as Boudjellal has increased the club’s commercial turnover by 500% during his tenure.
With Nonu well-established at Toulon, Dagg is most likely to join his former All Black team mate unless Steve Hansen and the All Black bank can persuade Dagg to stay.
Toulon has been one of the most successful European club in recent seasons, winning the Heineken Cup a record three times in a row from 2013. The one possible drawback of the Toulon move for Dagg other than losing his All Blacks jersey, would be the close proximity to a horde of Australians, as Toulon have Wallabies Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, James O’Connor and Liam Gill on its bulging roster of internationals.
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