Ian Foster has admitted that the All Blacks need to “figure out” a new way of playing if they are to get back to the top of world rugby.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ The Breakdown, the new All Blacks coach opened up on his side’s semifinal defeat to England at last year’s World Cup, saying there are a few changes needed in the team environment.
“There are a few things in our environment that we do need to re-shape,” Foster said.
“We need to figure out how to play teams physically when they play us physically. More and more teams are wanting to prevent us from playing.”
Foster, who took over from the All Blacks’ most successful coach in Steve Hansen, said the team’s inability to adapt to the unique challenge proposed by England ended up costing them.
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“When we get our game right, when we understand the nature of the beast we’re playing – we got up for South Africa, we got up for Ireland – I thought they were outstanding games. But we didn’t get up for England.
“We didn’t define that challenge well enough. They played us a certain way, and it looked like it surprised us, even though it shouldn’t have. We’ve got to figure out how we approach that type of challenge. Some of the physicality of our game, and where we use it, needs addressing.”
The 54-year-old urged the next generation of All Blacks to use that loss as fuel to reclaim their No 1 status in world rugby.
“Nobody in the playing group had lost a World Cup game,” Foster said. “Now we know what it feels like, and it’s not nice. That’s got to fuel this next generation. We want to be No 1, and we’re not, and it hurt.”
Last year, halfback Aaron Smith echoed similar sentiments of the “tough” review process after the All Blacks’ heartbreaking defeat, something that still seems to be on Foster’s mind.
“The review process was ruthless. It was tough,” Smith told the Rugby Bricks podcast.
“We were watching one of the worst games we’ve ever played, and you’re part of some ugly stuff. Was the effort there? It was big-picture, there was no actual name-calling, just things like ‘We needed to be better there, here’s a big moment that we mucked up, here’s a chance that we could have made.
“Steve did it with the whole room – everyone got their one minute or two minutes to say how they felt. There was a range of emotions – there were 51 of us there to start the review.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 11, 2020
The review followed a meeting that the leadership team had the day before, which featured elements that Smith said he ‘hated hearing’.
“We had our leadership meeting with the coaches and it was tough – Steve Hansen asked right away ‘how do you feel right now?’ We all told each other how we felt – and as you can imagine it was pretty sombre.
“One thing I love and hate about rugby players is we won’t take the glory either, but we love falling on the sword, and that’s what I hated the most about what I was hearing – we all wanted to jump on the sword, you know – ‘It was because of me’.
“Coach was like ‘cut that – it wasn’t that, we all did our part, and we all lost’. That was what I hated hearing, some of the best players in the world saying ‘it was my fault’ or ‘If I had done this…’ But the good thing was once we all said how we felt, we all felt a bit better.”
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