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Kiwi coach labels Ian Foster as 'best' head coach he's worked with

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree has labelled All Blacks boss Ian Foster as the “best” head coach he has ever worked with.

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Speaking to media ahead of his side’s clash against Ireland in Dublin this weekend, Plumtree said Foster tops the list of all the head coaches he has worked with throughout his professional coaching career, which has spanned more than two decades.

Since moving into coaching after retiring as a player in 1997, Plumtree has held various roles all over the world, with his first stint coming in Wales as head coach of Welsh Premiership club Swansea.

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He has also worked as head coach of Wellington in the NPC, was a head and assistant coach at both the Sharks and Hurricanes in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby, and served as an assistant for Ireland and Japan before taking on his current position with the All Blacks.

In his jobs as an assistant coach, Plumtree has worked alongside esteemed head coaches such as Joe Schmidt at Ireland, Jamie Joseph at Japan, Chris Boyd at the Hurricanes and Dick Muir at the Sharks.

However, he said on Wednesday [NZT] that Foster stands as the best head coach he has ever worked with due to the culture he has cultivated at the All Blacks.

“The management, the coaches, all the players really enjoy his leadership,” Plumtree said from the Irish capital when asked of what it was like to work alongside Foster.

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“He’s just the right blend, for me, and I’ve worked with some good head coaches, but he’s, for me, the best.

“He challenges us in the right areas, he keeps us really motivated, he’s got a nice balance between switch on, switch off, and he encourages us to follow that lead because some coaches, like me, are pretty intense and just want to work all the time and talk footy all the time.

“So, he’s been good for me, personally, and I’ve learned heaps under him.”

Plumtree added the playing group have bought into Foster’s style of leadership, which he said enables all members of the squad to feel valued and equal with one another.

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“I know that the leaders are loving the fact that, under Fozzy, they get a say and they’re heard and the leaders are a big part of running this All Blacks team.

“The big thing, I think, is everyone understands that they’re valued in this squad, and there’s no hierarchy, everyone enjoys it, and we’ve created an environment and culture with this current group that I think everyone’s enjoying.”

Plumtree was hired by Foster as a forwards coach and selector after Sir Steve Hansen’s departure from the head coach role following New Zealand’s semi-final exit from the 2019 World Cup.

They and the rest of the All Blacks’ coaching staff – comprised of defence coach Scott McLeod, attack coach Brad Mooar, scrum coach Greg Feek and selector Grant Fox – have won two Bledisloe Cups, a Tri Nations and a Rugby Championship since taking charge of the team last year.

The All Blacks also retained the Freedom Cup earlier this year and currently have a win rate of 78.9 percent with 15 wins, a draw and three losses against the Wallabies, Los Pumas and Springboks from 19 tests under Foster’s reign.

In August, Foster signed a two-year contract extension with New Zealand Rugby in a deal that will keep him in charge of the All Blacks until the 2023 World Cup in France.

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