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All Blacks fans should do the right thing and admit fault

By Finn Morton
Ian Foster, Head Coach of New Zealand, celebrates victory at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Ireland and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 14, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

PARIS – Sitting by himself in the changing rooms at Ellis Park, coach Ian Foster shed some tears after a famous All Blacks win. It wasn’t just an important result for rugby-mad New Zealand – the pressure, strain and scrutiny had been far more personal for Foster.

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Armed with pitchforks and torches behind the safety of their keyboards, some All Blacks fans called on New Zealand Rugby to “sack Ian Foster” ahead of that Test in Johannesburg last August.

Including a historic series defeat at home to a red-hot Ireland, the All Blacks had fallen to a disastrous run of five defeats from six starts. One more would’ve been it for coach Foster.

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New Zealand – semifinal post-match press conference

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New Zealand – semifinal post-match press conference

“We were playing for our coach’s job,” veteran Aaron Smith said on NZR+. This was more than just a rugby game; this was about a man’s livelihood, passion, and pedigree as a Test rugby coach.

New Zealand Rugby chairman Mark Robinson flew to South Africa for the match, which all but confirmed rumours and reports that this would be Foster’s last dance if the All Blacks were beaten once again.

But an inspired All Blacks outfit overcame the world champion Boks 35-23. After returning to New Zealand, NZR publicly backed coach Foster through to the Rugby World Cup.

“We’re very excited about the potential of this incredibly capable and experienced coaching trio (along with assistants Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan) going forward,” NZR chair Stewart Mitchel said on August 17.

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15 months after that ‘unpopular’ decision – it was at the time as All Blacks fans desperately called out for Crusaders boss Scott Robertson as a replacement – Foster has repaid the faith shown in him by the NZR board.

Foster and the All Blacks have overcome doubt and ‘underdog’ status to charge into a fifth Rugby World Cup decider. In what will be a fitting end to Foster’s tenure, South Africa stands in New Zealand’s way of glory.

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But before a ball is kicked or a pass is thrown, All Blacks fans should do the right thing and admit fault in their judgment. Win or lose, Foster deserves praise, plaudits and appreciation from those who questioned him so publicly.

Following the commanding 44-6 win over Argentina in Friday night’s semi-final, coach Foster offered a grin as he was asked about proving people wrong at the World Cup. While his eyes initially said one thing, Foster’s speech told another story.

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“I am proud to be part of this group, the coaches are linking well with the players and there is a nice synergy about it. But you know, one more week,” Foster told reporters.

“There’s not a personal agenda here, this is about the All Blacks and the team. Things have happened to individuals and to me, but the team comes first. Right now we’re making a lot of those decisions together as a group and it is working well.”

For the last four years, Foster has come under relentless criticism during a tough period for the All Blacks. But Foster rarely responds – he just goes about his business which is the way of the All Blacks.

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Along with assistants Ryan and Schmidt, the New Zealanders have turned their form around. They beat Ireland – a team on a 17-Test unbeaten run – in a blockbuster quarter-final in front of 50,000+ Irish supporters just over a week ago.

But while the players have been praised for the All Blacks’ near-perfect execution in their two knockout Tests so far, coach Foster hasn’t received been highlighted as one of the heroes of New Zealand’s World Cup campaign.

That’s outrageous.

It’s shockingly wrong.

Foster has smiled through press conference after press conference in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and even London as he continued to trust in the very team that had believed in him so greatly. The All Blacks have shone when they needed to, and so has their coach.

When the full-time siren sounds on Saturday, win or lose, Foster should be regarded as an all-time great All Blacks coach.

If winning four Rugby Championship titles wasn’t enough, as well as four Bledisloe Cups and Freedom Cups, Foster has made a World Cup final in his first attempt as head coach.

Sir Graham Henry couldn’t even do that.

So, whether the All Blacks win the sport’s ultimate prize or not, Foster has led a written-off All Blacks team to the World Cup final.

New Zealanders, it’s time to give credit where it’s due.

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Comments

134 Comments
M
Michael 267 days ago

It’s annoying as a (non Kiwi) ABs fan to be lumped in with all the keyboard warriors from Canterbury. Even today I’m seeing people saying that Blackadder should start and Will Jordan is out of position. And basically pre-emptively throwing Foster under a bus for selections that will “lose us the game”.

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Turlough 268 days ago

Joe Schmidht is written all over the NZ improvement.
NZ like England also benefitted from luck. NZ were easily outclassed by the better Team France. Should SA have beaten Ireland then NZ were exiting in the quarter.

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GailPaste 268 days ago

What a ridiculous notion by this writer. And of course, all the ugly stuff comes out from the folks on the net about All Black conduct. Death, taxes and rugby pundits throwing stones out the windows of their glass houses. Foster has a record, and that record in relative terms is very very poor. The AB’s win rate under Fozzies is almost as poor as South Africa’s win rate, which is unacceptable for the winningest team in sports history. You wouldn't praise a doctor who botched up a number of surgery’s just because he turns around and pulls off a heart transplant. The guy would be got rid of. The black jersey has a legacy, and that legacy has been tarnished by a number of very poor, un-All Black type results which means he deserves criticism. It's not that black or white Mr Morton.

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Another 268 days ago

And a few weeks ago, when the ABs were losing, journalists were painting a different picture of Foster’s journey, weren’t they?

I wish people would stop flipping everytime a result comes or goes. The ABs haven’t even won anything yet - will everybody flip again if the ABs lose this weekend?

Personally, I am getting tired of people writing scripts for outcomes of matches that haven’t happened already. Let us see what the result is first, then people can write stories about it later.

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Turlough 268 days ago

Another metric must be how the coach has sustained NZ supposed ethos of integrity, respecting other teams, fellow competitors and supporters and rugby’s ethos.
The wobbles of the last few years have resulted in a diminishing of International respect for NZ not because of you losing some matches but perhaps around your conduct since that time and your conduct in losing. Demonizing an opponent is not a good losing gambit. The sneering at retiring Irish rugby players and mocking of the Irish crowd after the final whistle are symtoms of that demonization. We know how to lose in the NH and sic nations. And we talk to each other. The image you have of the All Blacks, exists primarily only in NZ now. That will be a legacy of Foster. Straight question.
Are you ok with this?

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Alan 268 days ago

If he wins the World Cup, then I’ll eat my words and admit my wrongs.

Until then, he hasn’t achieved anything. The series loss to Ireland is still unforgivable.

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AklBlues 268 days ago

New Zealand fans would never give credit where it’s due unless Fozzie brings home the World Cup. A large majority of keyboard coaches feel this way, I am proud to say I backed the boys from the beginning. To blame Foz for the losses against Ireland basically dismisses the efforts of Ireland and Argentina. They like to mention Ryan and Schmidt as the true masterminds behind the success, no doubt they’ve helped, but what happened when we got run off the park against the Boks and lost to France first time ever in a pool match? Oh that’s right it was all Fozzy😒just so childish. I’m backing them all the way.

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Graeme 268 days ago

Fozzie did what all good managers do - surround himself with the best people.

If he had Ryan and Joe Schmidt from the start then Ireland wouldn’t have won in Nz and Argentina would still be waiting for their first victory against the ABs.

However, even Fozzie himself knows what he was dishing up was unacceptable before the win at joburg.

If he wins the RWC he should be rightly praised for a remarkable turnaround and finally getting the right people in place to dramatically improve the quality of coaching and modernise how the ABs play the game.

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Roy 269 days ago

A fair summation. I am very proud of the efforts that Fozzie and the team hasve put in to dig themselves out of a large hole. After the 2019 semifinal loss we had to change as a team and shore up our forward play. It has taken us 4 years to identify those players and give them the skill sets required and game plans to take us back to the top and hopefully keep us there. Win or lose this weekend I am very proud and respectful of Fozzie and his team. The great redemption story that I hope has a fairy tale ending.

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Emery Ambrose 269 days ago

Cheers Finn.
It’s been a massive 4 years from a fans perspective, at the end of the day, everyone has different things they see of value, some build to the RWC, just want to win that, others see undefeated in all tests, or winning all the championships available. Foster after 4 years has won all cups but the RWC (which could happened).
In July 22 when he was told his assistants weren’t getting the team to where they needed to be was a huge moment, he could have gone with them but choose to stay, head coaches have always been allowed to alter there assistants, at the end of the day he took a gamble on them at end of 2021 and they didn’t come through in the Irish series.

He’s turned it around with Ryan and Schmidt, it shows to me that Plumtree and Moar have been more of an issue then Fozzie, which you don’t know until given a shot and it didn’t work out.

I hope they win on Sunday and he and the whole group can go out on a high.

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Shaylen 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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Jon 8 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

29 Go to comments
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