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Report: Crusaders coach in line to join All Blacks coaching group

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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Scott Robertson’s chief assistant at the Crusaders has reportedly been asked to join Ian Foster’s All Blacks coaching staff as part of a backroom overhaul in the wake of New Zealand’s series defeat to Ireland.

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According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, highly-regarded Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan is tipped to join the All Blacks imminently as the Kiwis look to bounce back quickly after suffering a historic series loss at the hands of the Irish.

Falling to a 2-1 series defeat after losing their first matches to Ireland on home soil, the All Blacks are desperately searching for improvement ahead of their Rugby Championship campaign, which kicks-off in a fortnight when they face the Springboks across two tests in South Africa.

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Fronting the media following a tumultuous week that ended with his retention as All Blacks head coach on Friday, Foster acknowledged that such improvement will only come with change.

After naming an almost-unchanged 36-man All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship, headlined by the retention of under-pressure captain Sam Cane, Foster strongly hinted that those alterations will come within his coaching ranks imminently.

“I’ve also heard that there does need to be some change,” Foster said.

“Right now, I am working behind the scenes to achieve that. You can ask me a hundred times what that is and I won’t be able to give you that answer just yet.

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“I’d like you to bear with me, but we’ve got things in place right now, and as soon as I can let you know a couple of changes, I will let you know as soon as possible.”

That seemingly leaves his assistant coaches – forwards coach and selector John Plumtree, attack coach Brad Mooar, defence coach Scott McLeod and scrum coach Greg Feek – in the firing line.

Speculation has swirled about the future of that quartet, with numerous reports outlining that Plumtree is one of those who are particularly vulnerable after reviewing poorly following last year’s tour of the northern hemisphere.

Despite that, Foster confirmed on Friday that Plumtree helped him and new All Blacks selector Joe Schmidt pick the Rugby Championship, which appeared to be an indication that his role within the national set-up remains secure.

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However, the Herald reports that Ryan – the long-time assistant of Robertson, who missed out on the All Blacks head coach job to Foster after the 2019 World Cup – could join the New Zealand squad before their two-test tour of South Africa.

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Given his pedigree as a standout forwards coach, having helped Robertson guide the Crusaders to six straight Super Rugby championships after previously working with him for five title-laden years at Canterbury, Ryan’s addition as an All Blacks assistant coach would likely come at Plumtree’s expense.

Any decision to remove Plumtree – or any of the other All Blacks assistant coaches – would require a major payout from New Zealand Rugby [NZR] after Foster and his colleagues all signed two-year contract extensions last year.

Likewise, any ploy to bring Ryan on board with the All Blacks would likely result in NZR buying the former Black Ferns and New Zealand U20 coach out of his current deal with the Fiji national side.

Working as a forwards coach under Vern Cotter, Ryan is contracted to the Flying Fijians through until next year’s World Cup.

While there remains no confirmation about what changes will be made to the national coaching set-up, Foster is hopeful that any alterations will be made swiftly.

“I’ll let you know really soon. Out of respect for a couple of processes, I need to not say any more than that,” he said on Friday.

The All Blacks will assemble in Wellington on Monday before they open the Rugby Championship against the Springboks at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on August 6.

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