'We need to get better': All Blacks confirm two new additions to coaching staff
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has confirmed two new additions to his side’s coaching staff following an underwhelming 2021 campaign.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Foster revealed that Waikato director of rugby Andrew Strawbridge will join the All Blacks as a skills consultant, while veteran scrum coach Mike Cron will act as an informal mentor.
The addition of Strawbridge and Cron comes after the All Blacks endured their worst test campaign since 2009 after they lost three tests last year, including season-ending back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ireland and France.
As such, Foster has moved to enhance his coaching group, which will still feature forwards coach John Plumtree, scrum coach Greg Feek and attack coach Brad Mooar after they survived their end-of-year reviews with New Zealand Rugby.
Strawbridge was a key member of the Chiefs’ coaching staff when they won back-to-back Super Rugby titles under Wallabies boss Dave Rennie in 2012 and 2013.
While remaining onboard with Waikato this season, Strawbridge will join the All Blacks on a part-time basis in a role where he is expected to improve the squad’s skillset in numerous different areas.
“When you look at the last three or four years with disruptions to preseasons, routines, our U20s programme has been compromised through Covid,” Foster told the New Zealand Herald of Strawbridge’s recruitment.
“Part of our review is we need to grow our skill component on the attacking, contact, ball-carrying side of the game.
“Straws’ role is to come in and work with the coaches to make sure we’re grilling the detail of our skill programme in terms of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it during our weeks.
“It’s some external eyes looking at the programme and offering some input.
“He’s a very experienced coach. He’s had a number of different roles. He’s got a passion on the micro part of the game. He’s got a passion for working with coaches to enhance how they implement their plans.
“He’s an added resource behind the scenes to help our coaches and make sure we’re developing a skill programme to play the game we want to play.”
Cron, meanwhile, returns to the All Blacks after having left the national side three years ago following a 16-year association with the team, during which time he helped New Zealand win two World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015.
However, with Feek retaining his position as scrum coach, Cron will work alongside him and Plumtree in a bid to improve the All Blacks’ forward pack.
Foster acknowledged the need to up-skill his pack after the All Blacks were exposed there by South Africa, Ireland and France in their three losses last year.
New Zealand’s front row, and tight five as a whole, was put under scrutiny following those defeats, hence the recruitment of Cron, who is also part of the Black Ferns set-up alongside ex-All Blacks coach Wayne Smith.
“We think there needs to be another level in our game in terms of our movements around the park; our footwork and ability to generate power,” Foster told the New Zealand Herald.
“Our review in 2021 said we need to get better at that stuff.
“Crono is being utilised by Plum and Feek for that micro part but Straws is very into how we generate power with our feet and can we improve some of our ball carrying and physicality around the park.
“He’s going to be in that space working hard with Plum and Feek as well.”
The arrival of Strawbridge and Cron adds to a change of scenery in the All Blacks coaching group, with long-serving national selector Grant Fox set to depart his role after the three-test home series against Ireland in July.
He will be replaced by former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt, who is currently working as a support coach for the Blues in this year’s Super Rugby Pacific.
Foster told the New Zealand Herald that he is excited about working alongside Schmidt, whose first assignment will be to help the All Blacks defeat the Springboks in back-to-back Rugby Championship tests in South Africa.
“His background is largely in the Northern Hemisphere game and that’s clearly where we want to grow our expertise,” Foster said.
“We got a couple of good lessons in those last two games. That’s given us an opportunity to go away and think.
“Having Joe on board for the second half of the year and next year gives us a different internal perspective and I’m excited about that.”
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