Ex-All Black backs Ian Foster for World Cup contract extension
A former All Black believes New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has shown he is worthy of a contract extension beyond this year.
The decision to appoint Foster brought with it plenty of scepticism from the New Zealand public, as many felt Robertson deserved the role given his glittering coaching career at age-grade, provincial and Super Rugby level.
Since becoming Crusaders head coach in 2017, Robertson has guided the Christchurch-based franchise to five straight Super Rugby and Super Rugby Aotearoa titles.
They add to his eight provincial championships with Canterbury and 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship crown with the New Zealand U20 side.
By comparison, Foster was seen as someone with an underwhelming CV as a head coach, whose best result at the helm of any team came in 2009 when he guided the Chiefs to the Super 14 final, only to get thumped 61-17 by the Bulls in Pretoria.
However, NZR backed the 56-year-old after his eight-year service as an assistant to ex-head coach Sir Steve Hansen between 2012 and 2019, the early part of which time the All Blacks enjoyed one of their most successful periods ever.
But, after a World Cup title in 2015, three Rugby Championships, four Bledisloe Cup series wins and an undefeated campaign in 2013, things began to unravel towards the end of Hansen’s and Foster’s reign as head and assistant coaches of the All Blacks.
Two defeats to both Ireland and the Wallabies, a draw and a loss at home to the Springboks, a series draw with the British and Irish Lions and a fortuitous win over England between 2016 and 2019 set alarm bells ringing going into the 2019 World Cup.
There, the team’s worst fears were realised as England avenged their defeat at Twickenham the year beforehand to nullify the All Blacks in a display of supreme physicality to knock the Kiwis out with a 19-7 victory in their semi-final clash in Japan.
Unable to find a way through the unrelenting pressure applied by the English forward pack, doubts were cast over Foster’s feasibility as All Blacks head coach when it was revealed he would be running for the role.
Some All Blacks fans yearned for a fresh perspective in the national team’s coaching group, and they felt Robertson – the innovative and eccentric, yet brilliant, former All Blacks loose forward – could offer that.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 20, 2021
Furthermore, the retention of Foster was viewed by some as a continuation of the work done by Hansen, which unsettled those who held that view given the troublesome results the All Blacks endured leading into and during the World Cup.
Those concerns grew when the All Blacks achieved a winning ratio of just 50 per cent in Foster’s debut season as the team’s head coach last year.
Despite winning the Tri-Nations and retaining the Bledisloe Cup, a draw and loss to the Wallabies, as well as a first-ever defeat to Argentina, did little to win Foster more fans.
A report from the New Zealand Herald brought those issues to the fore again last week, albeit from a different standpoint, when it was revealed All Blacks players have grown frustrated at NZR for not extending Foster’s contract beyond this season.
The Herald reported that while Foster has won the support of his players to remain onboard as All Blacks head coach through until the 2023 World Cup, NZR is eager to see more from him before the end of the year.
None of Foster’s assistants have been granted contract extensions beyond this year either, and frustrations from the coaching group have reportedly grown after NZR extended Robertson’s contract until 2024.
Robertson’s deal with the national union comes complete with an opt-out clause to apply for the All Blacks job should it become available.
In spite of the uncertainty surrounding his long-term future, Foster delivered the best performance of his brief All Blacks head coaching stint last weekend, a day after the Herald‘s report was published.
The 57-22 thrashing of the Wallabies at Eden Park was the most comprehensive display of Foster’s tenure, and while he is still yet to face one of rugby’s current powerhouse nations, such as South Africa, France or Wales, the result certainly would have given NZR some food for thought.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod following the result, former All Blacks hooker James Parsons weighed in on the matter as he spoke in favour of retaining Foster beyond this season.
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 19, 2021
Parsons, who played two tests under Foster during his time as All Blacks assistant coach between 2014 and 2016, suggested a change to the make-up of New Zealand’s coaching staff at this stage of a World Cup cycle could be detrimental to the team.
“I think you’ve got to give confidence in the group and the way they’re trending,” he told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“I just think of it this way, if you make a change, say at the end of this year, if a new coaching group is in there, there’ll be system changes, there’ll be all sorts of changes, and then you’re into a World Cup.”
Parsons added the way in which the All Blacks have conducted themselves amid the unprecedented challenge forced upon them by Covid-19 has been “first-class” and deserves recognition.
“They seem like a pretty settled squad going through a lot of challenges off the field,” he said.
“I think the leadership and control that this All Blacks leadership group and management group has shown at the moment is first-class and worthy of being acknowledged at some stage.”
The All Blacks were scheduled to play their next test against the Wallabies in the final Bledisloe Cup test of the year at Perth next weekend.
However, fresh outbreaks of the virus in New Zealand and Australia have jeopardised not only that test, but also the entire Rugby Championship.
Sources have told RugbyPass that SANZAAR is considering relocating the entire competition to the United Kingdom and Europe, with other media reports suggesting the third Bledisloe Cup could be staged at Wembley Stadium on October 9.
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