Can New Zealand Rugby not get anything right?
People will argue long and loud about whether Ian Foster should have succeeded Steve Hansen as All Blacks head coach.
All Blacks, and NZR, apologists will say Foster is a fine coach. That he’s a seasoned and canny international operator who’ll flourish in command of New Zealand’s flagship sporting team.
Continue reading below…
They probably don’t even believe that themselves, but when you’re beholden to NZR or need access to Foster, then you can almost convince yourself of anything.
What can’t be in dispute here is that the process to appoint Foster was a sham. Poor Scott Robertson was taken in, and has been tarnished as a result, but all the other potential candidates saw this for the coronation it was, rather than a contestable position.
Ultimately NZR are entitled to appoint whoever they like. The problem they have here is that the public don’t particularly like or rate Foster and they sure as eggs don’t approve of the way he came by his promotion from assistant coach.
Such is the dissatisfaction with NZR that an environment has been created where people will be happy to see Foster fail and that’s very unfortunate indeed.
A number of top All Blacks have back-pedalled dramatically in a respected annual top 50 list of players from around the world.https://t.co/noAgBo0X4s
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 16, 2019
What has almost been as bad as Foster’s succession, was the fact his support staff couldn’t be confirmed. We were told plenty about what diverse thinkers they were and how much they’ll refresh the team, just not who they are.
Not that it’s a secret, of course, that John Plumtree, Scott McLeod, Brad Mooar, Greg Feek and David Hill are the men in question. Only problem is that no-one from NZR had bothered to make sure they were all teed up and ready to go.
That’s left us with the embarrassing spectacle of Mooar, having to publicly hum and haw about whether he’ll come back to New Zealand and join the All Blacks’ staff or see out his two-year deal with Scarlets.
A bit like Foster, Mooar should never have been put in this position by NZR. They knew they were appointing Foster, they knew Mooar was going to be on his staff and they should have sorted out a release from Scarlets weeks ago.
If nothing else, this further diminishes the standing of the All Blacks and the mythical silver fern they all like to talk about. It’s bad enough that blokes like Dave Rennie and Jamie Joseph, who have strong track records and real standing in the rugby community, preferred to accept jobs elsewhere, without a relative nobody such as Mooar now saying he’s “torn” about what to do.
At the risk of labouring the point too long, it really is amateurish to appoint a coach and staff and not ensure everyone’s actually available first.
Not that we should be surprised. We’re told the All Blacks are one of world sport’s most iconic teams and yet only Foster and Robertson appear as if they wanted to coach them.
That says a lot about how NZR must be regarded.
They then make a mug of Robertson, by making him believe he’s actually in the running, only to appoint Foster. That was partly due to the strength of Foster’s assistants who, unfortunately, we’re unable to name at this time.
It’s hard to know if it’s arrogance or incompetence on NZR’s part, but the main thing is that it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Fans are furious and, while those with a vested interest tell us all to pipe down and get in behind the great ‘Fozzie’, the lack of faith in our governing body only increases.
You expect missteps from NZR on issues such as player behaviour, equality, diversity. It’s just not in rugby’s nature to be on the right side of those things, but at least they’re slowly learning.
What you don’t expect is decisions that hamper the All Blacks or diminish their standing and, on that score, NZR have badly let themselves down.
In other news:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.