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All that matters for NZR this year is the All Blacks

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

I want a new All Blacks coach. Any time this year will be fine.

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Yes, as I cast my eye towards the 2023 season, that has to be first on the list of priorities.

There is a lot we do well in New Zealand when it comes to rugby, but too much that we don’t.

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We’re not transparent, we’re not honest. We’re reactive, not proactive. We’re not accountable. We’re preoccupied with what benefits the few, rather than thinking about the many.

And so much of that is encapsulated by the tenure of Ian Foster as All Blacks coach. It’s a topic that’s been done to death but – provided he goes at some stage this year and the process to appoint a successor is an open and rigorous one – people will regain some confidence in those running our national game.

Increasingly, I see New Zealand Rugby (NZR) as an organisation where personal pronouns and diversity appointments are more important than footy. And, once upon a time, I maybe would’ve applauded their attempts to be less of a closed shop.

But actually all I want now are decisions that make sense and some results on the paddock.

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This year is solely about the men’s Rugby World Cup. Super Rugby will be sacrificed in the name of the greater good, the NPC stuff will continue to sink without trace and nothing will be done to capitalise on the deeds of the Black Ferns.

It will all be about whether the All Blacks end 2023 as world champions or not.

And, frankly, that’s not that healthy. The game should be about more than one team’s performance at one tournament.

We should have more to celebrate and more to admire than that.

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Like the victorious Black Ferns, for starters.

Here in Hawke’s Bay, we’re still waiting to see them on a victory parade through Napier and Hastings. Just as we want to watch them in action at McLean Park.

Only, judging by reports, the Black Ferns might only play one game in New Zealand this year. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that won’t be in the Bay.

You get a team that everyone likes and everyone wants to pay their respects to and everyone wants to celebrate a world cup win with and you basically make them disappear. Great magic trick that, NZR.

I’d like to see no 1st XV rugby on television this year and no mention of it in print or on radio. In fact, I would support any initiative that took the commerce and haves and have nots out of the college game and just made it about playing rugby with your mates.

I’d also like to wish all departing All Blacks the best. The grass isn’t always greener and maybe your agent hasn’t actually jacked up a deal to suit you or your family.

Equally, if players still want to go, why shouldn’t we pick them from overseas anyway? They’re surely getting stiffer opposition than the Force or Rebels will ever be.

I’d like to see players playing and competitions with genuine integrity, but realise that’s wishful thinking in a world cup year.

I’d like to see the ball in play and the end of water breaks and messages from the coaching box. Let’s just get on with the flaming game.

But really and truly, I’d like to see the All Blacks become like the Black Ferns. To have a coach that people admire and players that fans can relate to and support.

A team that people will wholeheartedly get behind, rather than be embarrassed or frustrated by.

We can’t go on as we are. In making rugby purely about the All Blacks we have placed levels of pressure and scrutiny upon the coaches and players that are unsustainable.

It’s not that I feel bad for them, more that we seem stuck with a model that doesn’t work for or inspire anyone.

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