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Have the All Blacks regressed or is the world just catching up?

By Tom Vinicombe
Jordie Barrett. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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There were plenty of calls around New Zealand following the All Blacks’ less-than-impressive end-of-year tour at the end of last season that head coach Ian Foster simply wasn’t the man to lead the team forward.


Defeats at the hands of South Africa, Ireland and France capped off a disappointing campaign and a first-ever home loss at the hands of the Irish over the weekend has now reinvigorated Foster’s vocal opposition.

Whichever way you look at it, Foster’s time in charge of the national side – which has seen the All Blacks claim 11 wins from 18 matches against tier-one opposition – has been a disappointment.

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Sam Cane talks to the media ahead of the final test between the All Blacks and Ireland.
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Sam Cane talks to the media ahead of the final test between the All Blacks and Ireland.

But, it’s worth noting that NZ’s dismal record in recent times may not simply be a product of the All Blacks flailing under Foster’s stewardship.

Until 2016, Ireland had never tasted victory over New Zealand but claimed a historic win at Soldier Field in Chicago. On the six occasions since, the spoils have been shared evenly.


The change in the tide can be partially accredited to a fall in NZ’s standing but it would be disingenuous to suggest that there hasn’t also been a massive growth in Ireland’s game over the past decade.


Ireland have always been a good side but they’ve generally struggled to consistently match it with the likes of England and France in the north, and New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the south.

That’s changed in recent times, however, with Ireland transforming themselves throughout Joe Schmidt’s tenure as head coach, and further evolving under the guidance of Andy Farrell.

Over their last three matches against each of the tier-one nations, France and South Africa are the only two sides that Ireland haven’t had the better of.

Australia, Wales and Argentina have won just one of their past five matches against Ireland while Scotland are sitting on five losses.


Ireland have triumphed in their most recent two matches against England and, in fact, France is the only tier-one nation who Ireland didn’t win their most recent match against, with Les Bleus grabbing a six-point victory in Paris during this year’s Six Nations.

The fact of the matter is, Ireland are an exceptionally well constructed and well coached side and while the All Blacks’ recent run of results against the northerners is less than impressive, the defeat in Chicago was always going to pave the way for greater Irish success.

It’s also worth noting that while the All Blacks have slid down the World Rankings on the back of their latest loss to a historically low fourth place, they will bounce back up to second with a win in Wellington on Saturday evening.

Of course, all of the above is not to suggest that there aren’t changes that could or should be made in the All Blacks’ set-up – but New Zealand’s reign at the top was never going to last forever and a few losses to other nations who are at the peak of their powers is not necessarily the doom and gloom that many are making it out to be.


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