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Robertson's anti-climatic appointment ends sorry coaching saga

By Hamish Bidwell
Scott Robertson speaks to media after being announced as the next All Blacks Coach during a New Zealand Rugby Press Conference at NZ Rugby House on March 21, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

I don’t want to rain on Scott Robertson’s parade.

And – thanks to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) – I don’t have to.

Robertson should be ecstatic today. Ascending to the All Blacks is surely the dream of any New Zealand head coach.


But it’s all a bit anticlimactic, isn’t it?


Again, not for Robertson. He’s clearly been courted by NZR for a long time, only for them to finally put a ring on it about four years too late.

And there’s the rub.

When everyone knows you should be coach – and that you’ll eventually get the job one day – a lot of the suspense and excitement is removed from the process.

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This has been a shambles at every point, since Steve Hansen’s contract wound down in 2019.

We had then-NZR chairman Brent Impey declaring 26 outstanding candidates had expressed interest in succeeding Hansen. Only for NZR to appoint No.27 on the list.

No, that’s a little unfair on Ian Foster. He didn’t appoint himself, after all.

Although why NZR appointed him – and have retained him for so long – really is one of the great rugby mysteries.

More than that, it set a number of fans against NZR and Foster.

Fans didn’t rate the man and couldn’t fathom why the governing body did. As results underwhelmed, the whole situation became increasingly indefensible.


But, perhaps, the weirdest part of it all was the role played by NZR.

For an organisation that continued to profess its faith in Foster, they had a funny way of showing it. Time and again it appeared his tenure was up and that Robertson would take his rightful place as national head coach.

But, as every opportunity to belatedly make the logical choice came and went, fans became more disillusioned with the process, NZR and inevitably the game.

Even now – with Foster not prepared to contest the position and Robertson the obvious candidate – things have dragged on.


In the absence of leadership from NZR, Foster was allowed to cut himself as an unfortunate figure who’d been treated shabbily by his employer.

Never mind that he was largely unloved and unsuccessful, Foster was able to declare that NZR were undermining his 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign and destabilising the side.

But that all happened because Robertson – not for the first time it appears – was promised the job and couldn’t contain himself from making comments to that effect. Yes I want to coach the team, yes an announcement is imminent and yes – can’t you tell by my grin – it’s going to be me.

That NZR have now taken this long to confirm all that is yet another example of why fans aren’t doing cartwheels today. They’re over it. They’re sick of no-one appearing to be in charge and of having to support a team coached by an incumbent in which they have little confidence.

We will eventually be happy to have Robertson on board.

We’ll have to let this year run its course, but surely we can look forward to 2024 and beyond without continual coach talk? Robertson will need to win, obviously, but NZR also have to be more resolute than they were in Foster’s case.

There are challenges ahead for Robertson. Some players will go after the world cup and others should be sent packing.

A fresh start is required if he’s to make this a more likeable, relatable and successful team.

There will be players that don’t relish working with Robertson and they need to be expendable. He has to have the courage to pick a group that will play for him.

If that means dispensing with players who lobbied for Foster when Robertson was set to replace him, then that’ll help him in the long run.

But, for now, there’s a feeling of coach-fatigue. Of having read and heard far too much about the topic and of just wanting Robertson’s reign to start.

The man is a proven winner – which makes a nice change – but he’ll need to be lucky as well, if he’s to succeed with these employers.


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