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ABs door ajar for Gatland

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A two-year contract for Ian Foster keeps the door ajar for Warren Gatland

After weeks of anticipation, Ian Foster was confirmed on Wednesday as the man to succeed Steve Hansen as All Blacks head coach.

In a two-horse race with Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, New Zealand Rugby opted to appoint from within, as Foster had been Hansen’s assistant for the past eight years. Hansen himself worked under Graham Henry, and took over after the 2011 Rugby World Cup triumph.

Having won the past three Super Rugby titles, Robertson looked to be the favourite to land the prized job, and there have been plenty of surprised faces at the decision.

However, one thing that some have picked up on is the length of Foster’s contract only being two years. This has led to some speculation, particularly regarding incoming Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland.

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The former Waikato hooker has returned to New Zealand to coach after twelve years in charge of Wales. However, he is to take charge of his third British and Irish Lions tour in 2021 against the world champions South Africa. This is a commitment that he would not back out of, which therefore ruled him out of the All Blacks job.

While Gatland will still be with the Chiefs when 2021 rolls around, his time with the Lions will be over, and that is conveniently the point when Foster’s contract expires. This obviously provides an opportunity for Gatland to take over the All Blacks for the two years leading up to the 2023 RWC in France.

Of course, this would be dependent on the success that Foster has as a coach, as it would be nonsensical to replace him if he looks to be the right man for the job, but it looks like NZR are covering all bases here.

All that being said, Foster’s contract mirrors what Steve Hansen signed on for when he came on board in 2012. Hansen was originally contracted until the end of 2013 but extended his contract after a successful start to his tenure.

Although some have described the 54-year-old as a stop-gap, it is more than likely that he will be a successful head coach, particularly as he has been part of the All Blacks during a golden era, and therefore can provide a seamless transition from Hansen’s spell and maintain many of his successful structures. However, this does mean the door is not shut on Gatland either.

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A two-year contract for Ian Foster keeps the door ajar for Warren Gatland