All Blacks rookie George Bridge flying high as veteran Israel Dagg fights for career

A glimpse of All Blacks George Bridge and Israel Dagg at Crusaders training on Waitangi Day said plenty about the highs and lows of professional rugby.

Bridge, the one-test All Black who scored two tries on debut against Japan in Tokyo on November 3, looked a million bucks as he zipped around Rugby Park in Christchurch. Refreshed after his holidays, the 23-year-old spoke enthusiastically about how he's keen to play in the Crusaders final pre-season game against the Highlanders in Southbridge on Friday evening.

But Dagg, a 66-test veteran, is not yet in a position to start talking about pulling on the boots; the 30 year old was a spectator at the same training, and it's too soon for anyone to say when - or if - he will be available to represent the Crusaders as they chase a title three-peat.

Like Bridge, Dagg will be desperate to secure a spot in the All Blacks squad to play in the World Cup in Japan later this year; but the longer his damaged knee takes to heal, the more the odds will inflate.

Bridge, a speed machine effective at fullback or wing and good enough to score 15 tries for the Crusaders last year, is at the other end of the spectrum. Fit and the talk of the town after his test debut at Ajinomoto Stadium, he says he isn't thinking about the global tournament.

Developing his game is key at this time. He wants to work on his speed and power, among other things, he says.

"I feel like my whole skill-set can improve a lot," Bridge said. "There are a lot of areas around my game that I can develop. I am pretty keen to get stuck back into it, really.

"For me, my catch-pass and my kicking game, if I want to play fullback. That is always an ongoing work-on for me. And reading the game. It is just little detail bits now - it's good fun."

Grabbing those two tries in the 69-31 triumph over Japan fuelled speculation that Bridge must have earned some valuable credits with the All Blacks selectors, and his ability to cover two positions at the back helps reinforce that argument.

There were no deep and meaningful conversations with the All Blacks' coaches after that game, simply because there wasn't time. While the main squad took off for London, Bridge and a number of his team-mates returned to New Zealand.

"It was all pretty rushed. They were heading over to Europe and we were finished there (in Tokyo). But they (the All Blacks management) were pretty happy. They just said 'congratulations' on making my debut and what not, and said to keep working hard."

Some sunshine and surf in Poverty Bay were welcomed as Bridge reflected on a busy rugby year with friends and family.

Dagg had a more frustrating season in 2018. Injuries did him no favours and he ran out of time to prove himself ahead of the playoffs. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said it was too soon to say when the fullback/wing, who was contracted to play in Japan over the off-season, will be declared fit for the year ahead.

"He is working closely with the medical group to make a decision, on what is best for him over next few months," Robertson said.

An operation may be required: "It could, and that's the thing," he added. "Look, how big that operation is. There are a lot of factors, what does it look like and if they do operate is it now or later? Does it give him