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'There is confusion': Ian Foster on the problem areas in Super Rugby for the All Blacks

By Ben Smith
Captains Sam Cane of the Chiefs and Scott Barrett of the Crusaders pose for a photo with the Super Rugby Pacific trophy ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Now former All Blacks coach Ian Foster has weighed in on the state of Super Rugby Pacific and its ability to prepare New Zealand players for the international level.

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The All Blacks were able to make it to another Rugby World Cup final despite challenging results against South Africa, Argentina, France and Ireland over the years leading into the event.

The international game has become more competitive than ever placing more emphasis on Super Rugby to produce international-quality players.

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Foster said all is not lost with Super Rugby but that it requires a “massive” amount of attention to restore its status.

“I think it can be,” Foster said on The Platform NZ when asked if Super Rugby prepares players for international rugby.

“The Super Rugby competition needs a massive amount of attention.

“It’s critical to the All Blacks, that we have strong rugby clubs. I think we have.”

The coach explained that the critical area in need of change is player development, which has been identified as an ongoing issue in New Zealand’s governance review.

The issue is who is best placed to deliver that between Super Rugby clubs and provincial unions, who have invested heavily in player development with funding from NZR.

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Foster identified the U20 level and below as an area that “hasn’t been nailed” for some time with a state of confusion taking hold.

The results at the World U20 Championships for New Zealand haven’t been great for some years, with the last championship title coming in 2017.

“The only way to keep developing those clubs is to fine tune our development systems from underneath that,” he said.

“There is confusion in that area about how we develop our next players.

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“We are still stringing that out at U20 age group, where we haven’t nailed that for a decent amount of time.

“That’s our development programme. It’s not all about the U20 team as such, but the programme underneath that gets players to that point.

“That’s critical that we find a way through in that area.”

The other area that Foster highlighted as an issue is the diversity of playing styles since teams from South Africa, Japan and Argentina have disbanded or gone elsewhere.

He revealed that it took the All Blacks a couple of years to get used to playing different styles after the 2020 and 2021 seasons which saw a lot of internal rugby in New Zealand.

The All Blacks were shocked by Argentina in 2020 and 2022 whilst ended up losing to South Africa at least once every year from 2021. When they played Japan in late 2022 there was only seven points between the two sides.

Super Rugby Pacific added new teams in the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika but the absence of a wide variety of styles is being felt.

“We’ve got to make sure that Super Rugby is a viable competition and that our players are playing teams with a diverse way of playing,” he said.

“Certainly we narrowed down during Covid, we ended up playing ourselves.

“I think it took a bit to recover from that in 2022 and 2023 at international level and start to get used to playing different styles of rugby again.

“The more we do that the better.”

 

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