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UK critic says time is running out for All Blacks boss Ian Foster

By Sam Smith
(Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Outspoken British rugby columnist Stephen Jones has taken aim at Ian Foster and the All Blacks, saying the Kiwi coach’s reign in charge of New Zealand could be cut short if he fails to turn things around next year.

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In his second season in charge of the All Blacks, Foster guided his side to 12 wins from 15 tests in a a turbulent year that started with five inbound matches but ended with a three-month trek around the globe.

While the All Blacks emerged unscathed in their home fixtures against Tonga, Fiji and the Wallabies, they suffered defeat against the Springboks in the final match of the Rugby Championship, which was held almost entirely in Australia.

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However, Foster’s side won both the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship in their seven-week stay across the Tasman, which was followed by a five-week journey across the northern hemisphere.

That leg of their tour started with comprehensive victories over the USA and Wales, but a frustrating performance against Italy was backed up by consecutive defeats to Ireland and France in their final two matches of the year.

Those losses – the first time the All Blacks have lost consecutive while on tour in Europe since 1935/36 – left the Kiwi public baying for Foster’s blood as calls grew for Crusaders boss Scott Robertson to replace him at the helm of the team.

Robertson missed out on the All Blacks job to Foster after Sir Steve Hansen left the role two years ago in an unpopular decision by New Zealand Rugby given the title-winning credentials of the unsuccessful applicant.

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Jones, a vocal critic of the All Blacks, was among those left unconvinced by the appointment of Foster, who served as Hansen’s assistant between 2012 and 2019, and relayed his doubts regarding the 56-year-old over the weekend.

Writing for the Sunday Times, Jones compared Foster’s fate as All Blacks head coach to that of recently-sacked Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Skolskjaer if he continues to lose significant tests against the likes of Ireland, France and the Springboks.

“It is something to cherish for them when their most disastrous losing run extends not back into the mists of time, but for only two games,” Jones wrote.

“But should that losing run continue much longer there is no way that the All Blacks will wait as long in turfing out their head coach Ian Foster, the man with the hidden personality, as did Manchester United in dispatching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”

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The Irish and French wins over New Zealand added to a test window where the northern hemisphere nations dominated their southern counterparts.

The Wallabies, on the back of two victories over the Springboks, went winless against Scotland, England and Wales, while South Africa fell short against the English after working hard for wins over the Welsh and the Scots.

Jones wrote that the onus is now on the European juggernauts to continue to impose themselves on the global stage and make a habit of beating their southern opponents as the 2023 World Cup in France broadens on the horizon.

“Famous wins are looked back on with more than a whiff of nostalgia. The business of winning is a more brutal and unemotional, forward-looking business,” he wrote in the Sunday Times.

“Give me a rugby nation that makes winning into a habit like New Zealand. The national angst after their back-to-back defeats against northern hemisphere opposition perceived as lesser reflects grand expectations.”

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