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Israel and Daisy Dagg’s baby joy

Oh, boy! The proud All Black is going to be a dad
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When Daisy Dagg was still Daisy Aitken and her high-school sweetheart Israel Dagg was the new kid on the All Blacks block, they always imagined what life would be like when they had a family.

While out shopping one day, Daisy’s eye wandered to a tiny, stripey All Blacks onesie bearing the number 15 and, on impulse, she snapped it up. Fast-forward five years to a chilly August evening and that same outfit is hidden inside a shopping bag, wrapped around a pregnancy test, in an Auckland hotel room.

It’s been a long day for 28-year-old Crusaders fullback Israel, known as Izzy. He’s played his first All Blacks test of the season, followed by a long team dinner, and finally stumbles wearily through the door at 11pm. He’s not quite sure why Daisy’s got a hotel room.

They’re meant to be staying at her sister Laura’s house. But hey, it’s a sweet gesture, he thinks – she probably wants to spend some alone time before he heads off to Australia.

However, it’s here that Daisy, 29, is about to share the biggest news of her life.

“Being the rough kid that this one is,” Daisy laughs, as she and Izzy share their story with Woman’s Day, “he ripped out the suit from the bag and didn’t notice the pregnancy test falling on the floor! He said, ‘Oh, that’s cute. Whose baby is it for?’ So I had to hand him the test.”

Izzy recalls, “She said, ‘I’m pregnant!’ I was like, ‘Nah … Are you? Really?’ I was in shock! It was probably the best day of my life. All my mates have kids, and so do my brothers and sisters, so I was very, very happy. And the way she did it made it even more awesome.”

The exciting news comes two years after the couple, who met as teens at a school dance, tied the knot in a stunning ceremony at Mana Lodge in Hawke’s Bay. Back then, both newlyweds told how they couldn’t wait to start making a tribe of Daggs.

“But our friends told us to enjoy one year of married life before we started trying,” says Daisy, who runs food blog The Rugby Pantry with fellow All Blacks spouse Amber Vito, wife of Victor.

The day before we met at the couple’s Christchurch home, Daisy’s pregnancy – which had been “amazing” for the first 22 weeks – hit a curveball.

She woke in agony at 4am on December 14, her birthday, and an alarmed Izzy took her to hospital, where she was given morphine and kept in overnight with a suspected kidney stone.

“I’ve never felt pain like it,” she grimaces. But fresh from her hospital stay, she remains stoic, insisting, “It’s a little blip. It’s been an amazing pregnancy so far – apart from needing an afternoon nap between weeks five and eight, I’ve had nothing.”

Getting pregnant was the hard bit, says the interior designer and cookbook author. In February, she was diagnosed with endometriosis, where tissue grows outside the uterus, and had an operation the following month. A rubella booster meant they had to hold off for another few months. And there was also simple logistics.

“With the boys being away so much, it required planning,” laughs Daisy, causing Izzy to cringe and put his head in his hands. But finally, she became pregnant and soon after, the couple learned they were having a baby boy.

Israel and Daisy Dagg

“I originally wanted a little princess,” grins Izzy. “A boy loves his mum forever, but when he gets to about 12, he’s too cool for his dad. But I’m actually super-stoked – he can hang out with his dad and do cool things. It’s been a good year – and it got even better with the little man coming along.”

Indeed, 2016 was “much, much better” than the year before, the pair agree, after internet trolls savaged Izzy for his iffy season, where he narrowly missed out on a coveted place in the victorious 2015 ABs squad.

“It was hard reading some of that stuff,” he admits. “It was so personal and it was coming from people who didn’t even know me. It definitely put things into perspective and made me realise what’s really important – and that’s family.”

Thankfully, 2016 saw a turnaround in the sports star’s rugby fortunes. He was selected for the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship series, and their tour of Chicago, Rome, Dublin and Paris. And now, amid rumours of an international signing, the Daggs aren’t ruling out a shift overseas in the near future.

“I don’t actually know,” Izzy says when asked about a move. “I love New Zealand so much, but you can’t stay here forever.”

Passionate traveller Daisy took Izzy’s overseas stint as a chance to do some final exploring before the baby’s arrival. She spent time in Italy, and joined the Vitos in France and Spain, then met Izzy in Paris. They spent a final week in Hawaii before heading home – much to Daisy’s relief.

“I definitely felt more vulnerable travelling while pregnant, she says, “but it was so great spending time with Amber. It’s harder, but we still manage to keep The Rugby Pantry going. We’re always in touch online.”

The pair recently released Kai for Kids, an e-book of 50 child-friendly dinners, and they’re also considering creating some special baby recipes.

Even though the bump is small, Dagg Jr has been making his presence felt. “He’s already been kicking, so he’s probably going to take after his dad in the energy levels!” jokes Daisy.

“And his cool clothes,” adds Izzy. “He’s got heaps of Adidas and drop-crotch pants. He’ll take after his old man and be a little skux.”

Meanwhile, Izzy doesn’t hesitate when asked what values he’ll instil in his son. “I want him to be honest,” he says. “I don’t want him to be shy. I want him to be really kind and easily approachable. And I want him to work hard because Daisy and I have both had to.”

“I want to bring romance and chivalry back,” smiles Daisy.

“I want to teach him how to respect women and the elderly. And I come from a farming background, so playing outdoors is really important – simple things like racing down hills

on cardboard boxes, and hunting, fishing and golf!”

Both sets of grandparents, they say, are extremely excited. “Mum talks about him all the time – she can’t wait to meet him,” tells Izzy, whose son will be grandchild number 20.

“Or is it 21?” he muses. “Either way, there’s a whole lot of cousins out there who are going to spoil him or beat him up!”

The pair – who are spending the summer with family in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay – recently celebrated their two-year wedding anniversary, with Izzy cooking hand-crumbed schnitzel before they watched their wedding video.

“It was a real simple but nice evening,” he says. In just a few weeks, life as they know it will change forever, so they’re savouring these special, quiet moments.

Izzy grins, “The boys have given me some stick. They said, ‘It’s all over now. You’ll have to sell the jet boat, the golf will stop and there’s no more sleeping in. There’ll be no more time for hobbies, Dagg!’ But I’ll just put him in a front pack and take him fishing!”

“I think Izzy will be a better dad than I will be a mum,” says Daisy, laughing. “He’s so in tune with kids.”

“Nah, we’re a great team,” concludes her number 15. “And hopefully, I’ll grow into being a dad. I don’t quite know what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

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