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The All Blacks coaching drama has breathed life into The Rugby Championship

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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The empire may be crumbling, but at least Sam Cane and Ian Foster are still standing.


It’s been a comical couple of weeks for the All Blacks, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the media.

I’m going to absent Cane from the discussion, at this point.

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He isn’t, unlike Foster, turning up at press conferences proclaiming himself to be the man in charge and to possess all the answers.

He isn’t throwing underlings under the bus and avoiding any responsibility himself.

No, Cane is just a lightning rod for the public’s dissatisfaction with Foster and NZR, having been promoted to and retained in a position for which he’s not suited.

I actually feel sorry for Cane, who appears a pawn in the game being played by his coach and employers.


I also feel sorry for Chiefs fans, who’ve seen this movie before. All of them know that as soon as Foster goes, the team will start winning. It’s just that the wait in the meantime feels so interminable.

I feel a little sorry for John Plumtree and Brad Mooar too, who’ve paid for the inadequacies of Foster and the reluctance of any other coach to come to NZR’s rescue.

That’s not to say Plumtree and Mooar have done a good job. Although who among us is in team meetings and at training?

Truth is, these men were expendable and Foster, it appears, was not.


We’re told, by Foster, that his heart-to-heart discussions with the playing group revealed that Plumtree and Mooar had lost the team’s confidence and support. Fair enough.

But which player in their right mind is going to say, ‘actually, let me stop you there, Ian. It’s not them, it’s you’.


It was funny to see the way some media got a bit giddy on the idea that the winds of change were about to sweep through the All Blacks. That maybe Foster and Cane might both go and that it was time to air various grievances with the team and NZR.

We had bold predictions and talk of sources suggesting various heads would roll.

Didn’t turn out that way, did it?

And that’s all about the breathtaking arrogance of NZR and the contempt with which they view opinions from outside the inner sanctum.

Covering the team, provided scheduled press conferences and Zoom calls go ahead, is going to be rather awkward from here on.

Hey, and don’t dare be critical of anyone either, because you’ll get lectured on LinkedIn by NZR staff.

If you ever wondered if the media matter or if public opinion can affect change, then you got your answer last Friday. The good folk at NZR don’t care a fig for what anyone else thinks.

The upshot will be interesting. I’ll admit I’ve already whacked a few bucks on the All Blacks beating South Africa by 13+ in a couple of weeks’ time.

I mean, if Foster is any kind of coach and the All Blacks themselves have any kind of pride, then they’ll belt the Springboks at Mbombela Stadium.

But what am I hoping for? Performances and results that continue to reflect poorly on Foster and heap pressure upon NZR to admit their appointment process was all wrong.

I want to see them squirm and I know I’m not alone in that.

Our worst fears are being realised here. People, going way back to when Foster succeeding Steve Hansen was first sign-posted, predicted things would go this way.

That he was not equipped to perform the role and that the team would go backwards.

Even a halfwit like me was able to see that.

As for NZR, this is yet another instance in which they’ve reinforced their reputation for being insular and out of touch.

Well, they’ve made their bed now. They’ve staked everything on Foster and they’ve absolved him of any blame.

And, if nothing else, they’ve breathed life into the ailing Rugby Championship.

I know I’ll be watching the Springboks tests live, rather than waiting till a more convenient hour to catch a replay.

Not least to see what happens should the All Blacks lose again.


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