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Sir Steve Hansen warns NZRU over coaching 'distraction'

By Finn Morton
Steve Hansen and Ian Foster. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

World Cup winning coach Sir Steve Hansen has issued a warning to the New Zealand Rugby Union.

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After a tough international campaign – which was somewhat disastrous considering the All Blacks’ incredibly high standards – speculation has been rife over Ian Foster’s future.

Head coach Foster, who replaced Hansen after the unsuccessful 2019 World Cup, appeared to be under genuine pressure to remain in charge following a run of poor results earlier this year.

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Crusaders coach Scott Robertson rapidly became the people’s favourite to take over the coveted position, as fans dared to dream about the dawn of a new era with the super coach.

But regardless of what the future holds for Foster, Robertson or another worthy candidate, Hansen believes the NZRU have to wait until after the World Cup to announce a decision.

“I think they (NZ Rugby) have to be really aware of the effect of naming a new coach before a World Cup,” Hansen told Stuff.

“You don’t need the distraction. You don’t want someone distracting, because he’s – if they appoint a new coach – all excited and starts having conversations that aren’t necessarily until after the World Cup.

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“And the ironic thing is that if they win the World Cup, what do they do with Ian Foster if they have already appointed someone? So they are between a rock and a hard place.”

The All Blacks are expected to win every time they don the famous black jersey.

The legacy of the team, and the responsibility that creates to do it justice, expects a lot of everyone who is privileged enough to call themselves All Blacks.

This pressure made the start of their 2022 campaign so shocking.

New Zealand began their season with an emphatic win over World No 1 Ireland at Eden Park, but the men in black fell apart during their next few tests.

Ireland won their first test against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil,, before creating more history a week later – winning the series in dramatic circumstances.

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Foster was under immense pressure ahead of a two-match tour to South Africa, but a valiant win at Ellis Park seemingly saved the 57-year-old.

But disastrous stuck soon after.

The pressure was back on the All Blacks and Foster after an historic loss to Argentina in Christchurch.

While the men in black won The Rugby Championship, and went seven tests undefeated to finish their season, many supporters would welcome a change.

But Hansen explained why a coaching change would derail the All Blacks World Cup preparation.

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“I think if you are going to name a new coach before the World Cup’s over, then you have got people looking at who is the boss, and looking at two different people,” he added.

“That is a possible derailer; and you don’t want that. Then there is the other side of it, we don’t want to lose people.

“I think they (NZ Rugby) need to sit down and if they make a decision to do it (appoint the next coach before the World Cup), they would have to put some boundaries around what the incumbent coach could and couldn’t do.

“Basically I think he should be told, and then leave it at that until such time as the World Cup is over, and then announce it.”

The All Blacks turned a corner during their end-of-season tour, as they recorded a statement win over Wales at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

But they’re by no means the favourites for next year’s World Cup.

World No. 2 France went undefeated throughout a stunning season, while Ireland reached new heights in 2022.

“I think France probably are the favourites, but that could be a hindrance or add a lot of pressure to them.

“We knew what that was like in 2011, so you have got to deal with that and all the things that come with playing at home.

“But they are playing very well, Ireland have got their own monkey to get off their back, haven’t they? They haven’t really gone that well at World Cups. They are playing good footy at the moment.

“South Africa are always tough, England will be tough and I think the All Blacks are going to be very tough.”

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