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It's hard to see the All Blacks getting better under Foster's watch

By Hamish Bidwell

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Whatever it is that ails the All Blacks, I have no faith in Ian Foster to fix it.

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I know I’m not alone in being pleased that France beat New Zealand on Sunday. Not pleased for rugby, mind, nor pleased for the French or their fans. No, simply pleased that Foster’s failings were again laid bare.

If I have an abiding memory of that 40-25 thumping, it’ll be Foster stood alone and befuddled on the Stade de France pitch at fulltime, before having a good old chuckle with France coach Fabien Galthie.

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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster on the loss to France
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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster on the loss to France

I have to say I cringed.

For all the lessons and “learnings’’ Foster incessantly maintains the team are taking from games and for all the key areas he’s allegedly identified for improvement, the All Blacks are getting worse.

Not because they’re on tour or confined to barracks or away from their loved ones. No, good players are being made to look bad because of the collective confusion about what they’re trying to do out there.

We’re to blame too. We in the media and those of us who just watch on frustrated from our coaches, we’re all complicit in creating an environment where a man like Foster can prosper.

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Who’s actively challenging the man or the people who employed him? Who’s calling out all this cobblers about lessons? Who’s getting a fair hearing when they suggest Foster should be sacked now?

Instead we allow this narrative to develop about rocks under a beach towel and off-season soul searching and how it’ll all help conjure up bold new ideas for 2022. Give me a break.

We treat – and have treated over many decades – the words of All Blacks coaches as if they were sacred. We have endured their bluff and bluster and assumed that they were in fact all-knowing and all-seeing geniuses who would be proved right in the end.

We have allowed these men – and their players – to believe they are infallible and we have rounded on those who dared mutter any words of disappointment or dissatisfaction with the regime.

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Why can’t Foster be sacked? Because his contract has been extended to 2023, apparently.

Well, that doesn’t stop the likes of Manchester United. They’ve extended the contracts of their three most-recent managers and then turned around and binned the lot of them.

Now, Manchester United’s failings as an organisation go a lot deeper than the manager, but so do the problems at New Zealand Rugby (NZR).

It is shameful that Foster was appointed in the first place. Succession is a flawed concept, with Foster being exhibit A at this point.

What kind of credible organisation opts for something as lazy and complacent as succession? I mean, honestly.

But look at the Black Ferns. They’re being embarrassed by teams with inferior talent, but better coaching, just like the All Blacks are.

Check out the 2022 Super Rugby squads. They’re full of boys with no runs on the board, plus a few All Blacks who’ll have to lace their boots up reluctantly.

We have let a whole tier of talent – blokes whose presence here played a critical part in the success of the All Blacks – simply leave the country. Guys who, year after year, kept franchise incumbents honest and pushed for test inclusion or even accumulated a couple of caps themselves have all upped and gone and left us with very little.

The same with our coaches.

If there’s an impediment to punting Foster, it’s that domestic alternatives are virtually non-existent. We’ve been left with just Scott Robertson, because men such as Dave Rennie and Jamie Joseph and Pat Lam and Chris Boyd weren’t awfully welcome here and now impart their immense knowledge elsewhere.

Robertson has his strengths, but he’s now being cast in the role of saviour and that’s a heavy burden to put on anyone.

New Zealand Rugby aren’t going to make a change at the helm of the All Blacks, because no-one’s going to make them. Those who argue for Foster’s removal can be dismissed as halfwits and malcontents because the governing body controls the narrative.

Too many people are too beholden to NZ Rugby Inc for change to happen, while the team itself are so disconnected from fans that they couldn’t give a hoot what we think.

I really don’t see the All Blacks getting better on Foster’s watch. They don’t have a coherent gameplan of their own and are regularly flummoxed by what opponents throw at them.

How can that be? How can all the hours of meetings and training and video analysis and blokes running onto the paddock with messages result in continual confusion?

The only conclusion to draw is that it’s because the bloke in charge doesn’t know what he’s doing.

The All Blacks have been the epitome of excellence for decades, but the latest inheritors of that legacy are fast becoming an embarrassment.

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It's hard to see the All Blacks getting better under Foster's watch

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