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Former All Blacks coach on how 'world-class assistants' have elevated Ian Foster

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

It’s been a wild World Cup cycle for the All Blacks and Ian Foster. The former assistant assumed the role of head coach following a disappointing semi-final exit in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and was immediately disrupted by Covid-19 before launching into a rocky four years of results.

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The coach’s tenure has witnessed historic losses but also historic wins for the men in black. Maiden defeats to Argentina and a first-ever series loss to Ireland mar Foster’s record and the coach’s overall win percentage since taking the helm has flirted with Laurie Mains’ for the worst win percentage in the professional era.

While owning those poor stats, Foster has still won every Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup during his reign and has the All Blacks sitting second on the World Rugby rankings heading into the Rugby World Cup.

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There’s been a distinct turnaround over the past 12 months since the Ireland loss, the All Blacks lost twice in the three games following the series but are unbeaten in the nine games since. It’s an improvement that has impressed former All Blacks coach John Hart.

“The big thing for me personally as a coach was to look at Ian Foster and say well done,” Hart told SENZ The Run Home.

“A year ago, he was written off. He went through a terrible time, one that I personally, I supported him where I could privately, I thought it was unbecoming of us.

“he’s gone through that, he’s got a world-class coaching team around him, it’s given him a chance to elevate himself.

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“A couple of years ago he had issues with his assistants and that maybe complicated things for him, that he had to get involved in a lot wider and a lot more.

“Now, I think he’s got world-class assistants in Joe (Schmidt) and Jason (Ryan), Greg Feek, people who are really doing their job well giving him the opportunity to step back and do what he is, he’s a smart coach and he’s now able to really lead that.”

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Joe Schmidt, the former Ireland head coach, joined the All Blacks’ setup as attack coach and has since tidied up the attacking philosophy and helped Foster find a backline that brings the skills and physicality needed to execute it.

Jason Ryan joined the group from the Crusaders and has elevated the forward pack to new heights in both set piece and at the breakdown.

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“That’s where I think we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the last 12 months,” Hart continued. “This team now can physically handle the real, tough physicality. We saw that against South Africa, who came down and threw everything at us in two halves with two different forward packs.

“We withstood that, we gave it back. So I think our tight forwards have a real ability to compete now at that level. Our scrum, our lineout, our maul is strong and I think they’ve gone back to simple things. I think they were getting a little complicated and now I see the gameplan is very simple.

“I think Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett have proven to be a really good one-two team and that creates opportunities in the backs and we know we’ve got all that firepower.”

After the unconvincing results of recent seasons, chat about the All Blacks’ World Cup chances started to become unusually pessimistic, with a tough schedule giving the potential for a first-ever pool stage loss and a quarter-final exit for the Kiwis.

While both of those results are still very much on the table, optimism is beginning to re-emerge over the form of the New Zealand side, ruling out any speculation the team could enter the tournament as underdogs.

“That’s a good thing and we’ll have pressure and it won’t be easy because you’ve got to get through France. But, the big pressure point will come in the quarter-final for me, because I believe if we win the quarter-final we’re in the final and I personally think it’ll be against France. I think the first game of the tournament may well be the last game of the tournament.”

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Comments

8 Comments
W
Warner 340 days ago

All these comments about Foster did anyone see ,
England v Wales
France v Scotland
These are tier 1 teams ridiculous.

P
Patricia 340 days ago

Oh my goodness. Can't we finally stand united and simply support our team including the wonderful coaches. Their jobs would be so difficult. What we do from the 'bench' is offer nothing but positive thoughts. Tutira mai nga iwi fellow rugby fans.

e
ed 341 days ago

I totally agree with you if we hadn't goi rid of the under performing assistant coaches who were out of there depth we would not have won any tests this year ,

A
Andrew 341 days ago

Well hullo. Talk about state the obvious. Foster is now like Joe Biden, an affable ineffectual figurehead to the two guys who do all the mahi. A pity so much reputational damage had to be done to AB rugby before this happened.

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Turlough 5 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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