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NZR cannot afford to sit idle on appointing the next All Blacks coach

By Hamish Bidwell
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster walks through the crowd towards the field after The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina Pumas at Orangetheory Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Succession didn’t get us anywhere.


Signposting that Ian Foster would ascend to Steve Hansen’s throne left us without options.

Sure, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) managed to get Scott Robertson to participate in a sham appointment process – which must make him blush on a daily basis – but we still finished with the anticipated outcome.

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And now folk want us to do the same? To have NZR sit idle, to the point where we get Foster again after the Rugby World Cup or have an assistant succeed him?

No, thanks. The time for genuine coaching renewal is already overdue.

Look, if there’s a shambolic and illogical way to do something, then NZR will find it. We know that already.

But for people to suggest that the governing body shouldn’t sound out or identify – even name – coaches for 2024 and beyond defies belief.


So what if this process undermines Foster. The bloke has had more than a fair go.

I read and hear that if NZR are looking at alternatives now, then they may as well go the whole hog and sack him.

It would be another expensive decision, leaving another contract to be paid out, but is that really such a bad outcome? Or must we protect Foster and his brand at all costs?

What are we afraid of? The man is a relic of a regime that came to power in 2004 and yet we still think that talk of its end is premature?


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But it is broke. It’s been broke for a while now.

The All Blacks have to be bigger than one man and one school of thought and it’s not disrespectful to say so.

We’re a small country. The coaching tree isn’t a big one and many of our better practitioners trace their origins to Wayne Smith, for instance.

Clean slates will be hard to find, but that’s no reason not to try.

It would be negligent of NZR not to be proactive this time. To assume that coaching candidates will flock to them.

That clearly didn’t work last time – even if it’s generous to suggest that was ever NZR’s intention – leaving us with a pale imitation of Hansen as head coach.

People say that Hansen had run his race by 2019. That he’d lost his touch, failed to rebuild the squad and left Foster to inherit an absolute mess.

We’ve heard about Covid this and fatigue that, to continually mitigate the often miserable results since 2020. We’ve tried a sabbatical here, a new assistant there, but never properly addressed the issue of the man at the helm.

And now – in deference to that man – we’re going to criticise NZR for belatedly investigating alternatives?

You’ll have to forgive me for not joining that chorus.

We kicked NZR from pillar to post for failing to properly plan for succession last time, so it would be absurd to condemn them for having a decent look now.

Ian Foster has tried his best and should ideally be afforded a dignified finish, but the needs of the team and its loyal fanbase have to come first.


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