Rugby-All Black Dagg forced into retirement by 'unfixable' knee

WELLINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg has retired from all rugby at the age of 30 after struggling with a long-term knee injury, he said on Friday.

World Cup winner Dagg, who played the last of his 66 tests on the wing against Argentina in 2017, decided to call time on his career after receiving medical advice.

"As a little kid growing up in Hawkes bay I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have traveled the road I have with Rugby," Dagg said in a post on Instagram.

"Unfortunately my dream career has come to an end due to a increasingly painful and unfixable right knee, my rugby days are over."

One of a raft of brilliant outside backs brought into the All Blacks side by Graham Henry, Dagg made his test debut against Ireland at the age of 22 and played a starring role in the side's 2011 World Cup triumph the following year.

Dagg scored five tries in five matches in the tournament and started at fullback in the final against France.

Blessed with searing pace, skill and vision, Dagg scored 26 tries in all for the All Blacks and set up countless others through a sparkling eight-year international career.

He also played a total of 112 Super Rugby matches for the Otago Highlanders and the Canterbury Crusaders, claiming back-to-back titles with the latter in 2017-18.

Dagg suffered a season-ending knee injury in his final test in 2017 and managed only a handful of appearances for the Crusaders during their successful title defense last year.

He said he would continue at the reigning Super Rugby champions in a mentoring role for the rest of the season.

"While it's bittersweet to mark the end of my playing career, I'm grateful to still be able to contribute to this Crusaders team in 2019 and help prepare some of the younger squad members to take the next step in their own careers," he said in a New Zealand Rugby media release.

"On a personal note, I'm looking forward to taking on some new challenges in the future, and looking forward to spending more time with my young family."

New Zealand's rugby community paid tribute to a player who started in 63 of his 66 tests and played 49 at fullback, second only to Mils Muliaina in the position.

"It's always a shame when injury forces a player to retire, but 'Izzy' will leave our game knowing that he'll forever be remembered as an outstanding player who definitely enhanced the All Blacks jersey and contributed to the legacy of the team," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"We'll all miss his outstanding rugby skills on the field, but he was a real character off the field as well. We'll look back fondly at his time in the black jersey - he's a very special man and a very special player." (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)