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Expectations for Razor as All Blacks coach should be dampened

By Ben Smith
(Photos by Hannah Peters/Getty Images/Joe Allison/Getty Images)

There is no doubt that Scott Robertson is deserving of the All Blacks head coaching job after six straight Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders.


Robertson is the candidate who can energise and rally support behind the All Blacks, but expectations shouldn’t be held demanding an immediate return to world dominance.

If Robertson is appointed for 2024 and beyond, he will inherit an All Blacks side stripped bare of experience and many world-class players after the World Cup.

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The last of a golden generation featuring Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick are all moving on. Players such as Richie Mo’unga and Shannon Frizell are already confirmed departures despite having time on their side to continue playing test rugby.

The list of All Blacks players locked in for 2024 onward is short with questions marks over starting quality players such as Rieko and Akira Ioane, Damian McKenzie, Scott Barrett, Will Jordan.

Up to 31 players are off contract after 2023 and the status of many is unknown. Should they do a stellar job to retain the top names, depth could still be worn very thin.

New Zealand Rugby is staring off the edge of a cliff in terms of talent retention. The task will be the biggest challenge an All Blacks coach has ever faced should many of these players walk.


If anyone can re-build the All Blacks into a juggernaut it will be Robertson, but that’s not to say he will, while the very nature of re-building means shipping losses as the team grows to where it needs to be.

Much of Robertson’s immediate success in the role will be dependent on who will still be here for him to coach.

The ideal situation for Robertson was to be the All Blacks head coach during this World Cup cycle, with the talent and experience here now to make the most of this window.

The U20 crop of 2011 are making their last hurrah, his Super Rugby champion Crusaders players are in the squad, as well as many he coached to the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2015.


That has not happened and the NZR may live to regret it in France later this year. This World Cup was the one for New Zealand to make the most of with Robertson’s coaching genius.

The last 10 years of New Zealand U20 results have been the iceberg beneath the water the ship is headed towards.

Just two championships, one coached by Robertson in 2015, the other in 2017, have been surrounded by inconsistent results and new benchmarks for ‘worst ever placing’.

Robertson’s 2016 side who were looking to go back-to-back bombed out to a then-record worst result of 5th place after a pool stage loss to Ireland.

Just what the playing pool that Robertson will inherit looks like remains to be seen, with big question marks over who is staying and who is going.

Equally, who will be along side Robertson is key.

If Robertson can learn one thing for current coach Ian Foster’s tenure it is that the assistants matter greatly at international level where margins are tiny and the details are everything.

Foster’s self-selected team of John Plumtree, Brad Mooar, Greg Feek and Scott McLeod didn’t last.

The two assistants let go, Plumtree and Mooar, came into the All Blacks with limited head coaching experience and none at international level.

Both had just taken head coaching roles, at the Hurricanes and Scarlets, before abandoning them to jump into Foster’s team.

Both had extensive history as assistants but neither had actually won anything in professional rugby as head coaches.

Once Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan and former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt were brought in, the All Blacks began to click at the back end of 2022.

Schmidt brought an incredible amount of pedigree into the room, having coached Ireland for many years winning multiple Six Nations titles and turning Ireland into the number one ranked side in the world at one point.

His influence was clear to see as nearly all aspects of All Black attacking play sharpened up whilst non-performing players who kept starting under Foster’s old coaching staff quickly fell down the pecking order.

The team around Robertson will be critical, if not more important than Robertson himself, particularly if the All Blacks side is going to be a youthful one.

Outside of winning it this year, Eddie Jones would love taking the Bledisloe Cup back under Robertson’s watch, outfoxing the hyped-up new kid on the block in his first year of test rugby.

The magic touch of Robertson seems to turn everything to gold, and he will need that Midas touch in spades to continue to accrue trophies and the ultimate prize, the Rugby World Cup down the line in 2027.

But the Razor era could just as easily be as turbulent as Foster’s run if he isn’t afforded the same resources, which is a big question mark sitting over New Zealand Rugby whether he is given the job or not.


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