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'Joe Schmidt has been on my radar probably for a couple of years'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Ian Foster has explained why he has now asked Joe Schmidt to have greater involvement in coaching the All Blacks. The ex-Ireland boss originally agreed to come on board as an independent selector earlier this year when Grant Fox decided to step away. Due to covid issues in the lead-up to the Irish series, Schmidt helped out with some emergency coaching prior to the first Test before stepping away again as his selection role wasn’t due to start until after the three-game July series was over.

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Ahead of the two-game trip to South Africa, it was decided that Schmidt – who wasn’t travelling – would help out with opposition analysis as well as begin his All Blacks selector role. However, that involvement has now radically changed ahead of the round three Rugby Championship match at home to Argentina on August 27 in Christchurch.

Aside from rubber stamping Foster to continue as the All Blacks head coach through to the 2023 World Cup in France after last Saturday’s win over the Springboks put an end to five defeats in the previous six matches, the New Zealand Rugby media event in Auckland on Wednesday also confirmed the appointment of Schmidt as a full-time assistant coach.

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The former Manawatu player coached Ireland from 2013 through to their 2019 World Cup quarter-final defeat to the All Blacks in Tokyo and he now takes up a more central role in Foster’s backroom staff. “Just talking about the addition of Joe Schmidt, Joe Schmidt has been on my radar probably for a couple of years,” admitted Foster, explaining his latest staff alteration following the recent upheaval that saw Jason Ryan come on board with John Plumtree and Brad Mooar axed.

“We agreed at the start of this year that his role was to join us after the Irish series as an independent selector to replace Grant Fox and in addition, he was going to do some analysis of the opposition and work alongside me in the strategy area. He started that up after the Irish series.

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“Delighted with how that is going. We have got a great relationship with Joe and how that works and subsequently in conversations, we have now decided to move him from the computer room and actually put him on the park a little bit more. On the park, he is going to work alongside me and to a slightly lesser extent Stormy [Scott McLeod] in terms of how having a bit of an impact on the part with the attack part.”

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For Foster, Wednesday was a day that few All Blacks fans believed would materialise until last weekend’s job-saving victory over the Springboks in Johannesburg. Rather than axing the head coach 13 months out from the start of the World Cup, he has now been given the go-ahead to take the team to the finals in France despite all the recent criticism that followed tour defeats to the Irish and the French, a home series loss to the Irish and then a bruising 16-point away loss to the Springboks before last Saturday’s riposte.

“There was strong support from both Mark (Robinson, NZR CEO) and the board for us going forward,” enthused Foster, who was assistant coach to Steve Hansen before taking charge following the 2019 World Cup. “It has clearly been a difficult time.

“At the start of this campaign, we didn’t get what we wanted against Ireland and that created a lot of performance stress. That is part of my job and I expect to be grilled in that space and so through the last month, I have had a number of conversations about how we can grow our organisations and make sure we get the performance that we want on the park.

“We have made some changes and we are continuing to keep evaluating our group to make sure we have what we need going through to the World Cup. I am really delighted with where we have got to from today on.”

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