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Winners and losers from the appointment of Robertson as All Blacks coach

By Ben Smith
Scott Barrett (L) and coach Scott Robertson of the Crusaders celebrate after the Super Rugby Pacific final between the Blues and the Crusaders at Eden Park in Auckland on June 18, 2022. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP via Gettys Images)

New Zealand Rugby revealed that Scott Robertson will coach the All Blacks from 2024 onward, securing the most successful Super Rugby coach in history on a four-year deal.

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What was perhaps the worst kept secret in the rugby world, the appointment of Robertson brings in the first real regime change in 20 years for the All Blacks since Graham Henry took the job in 2004.

Since Henry’s appointment the All Blacks have handed the job down to a pre-planned successor, first Steve Hansen in 2012, then Ian Foster in 2020, both assistants under the previous head coach.

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As a result of the decision to break with the old regime there are bound to be ramifications for players and coaches alike with a fresh start under a new man.

Winners

Scott Robertson

Top of the winner’s list has to be the man known as Razor, who after a long wait has finally been rewarded after an unprecedented six consecutive championships with the Crusaders since he took over in 2017. All he does is win.

Although he will have to wait until next year to start his reign, this is a moment to enjoy for Robertson.

Jason Ryan

The former Crusaders forwards coach who worked under Robertson for many years you would think will stay on in his assistant role with the All Blacks with the new coaching team.

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It would be a shock to see Robertson pick anyone other than Ryan for the role.

Scott Barrett

Tipped to be the next All Blacks captain, the appointment of his club coach Robertson will shorten Barrett’s odds of getting the nod in 2024.

The 29-year-old has captained the Crusaders under Robertson and it wouldn’t surprise to see him reprise that role under him again.

He recently re-signed with NZR until 2025 which isn’t a long term commitment, but that is the way many of the players are doing their deals these days.

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Cullen Grace

The one cap All Black made his debut in 2020 with a short bench appearance and hasn’t been seen since.

After falling down the pecking order in 2021, injuries have also struck the 23-year-old loose forward.

His form in 2022 for the Crusaders wasn’t enough to earn an All Blacks recall despite taking apart the Blues’ lineout in the Super Rugby Pacific final but he did receive a glowing endorsement from one coach, Scott Robertson.

Grace’s All Black career could be revived with Robertson taking over.

Ethan Blackadder

The workhorse blindside flanker has been in hot form to start Super Rugby Pacific and may well return to the All Blacks in 2023 after missing the entire 2022 international season after suffering a shoulder injury in Super Rugby.

After nine Test caps in 2021 mainly as a No 7 with the All Blacks, Blackadder has returned to action with fire as hard-running blindside this season.

With Shannon Frizell a confirmed departure and Blues’ Akira Ioane’s contract status unknown past 2023, Blackadder will be right in the mix to become the All Blacks starting blindside under Robertson.

Leicester Fainga’anuku

Despite an unpleasant experience with the All Blacks in 2022, reports that the 23-year-old is being shopped around in France have still surprised.

Perhaps with Razor becoming the All Blacks coach in 2024, he can convince the dynamic outside back to stay around a little longer.

The powerful left wing and centre option has flourished at the Crusaders under Robertson where he has 21 tries in 45 appearances for the club since his debut in 2019.

If Fainga’anuku enjoys the Crusaders environment under Robertson, he may have a better experience a second time around with the All Blacks.

Dalton Papalii

If Sam Cane is no longer captain of the All Blacks, he will no longer hold the No 7 jersey by default.

The openside flanker role would be up for grabs to the best player available, which based on form would be Blues captain Dalton Papalii.

Papalii was a physical beast on the All Blacks end of year tour after Cane’s injury, forming a dangerous back row combination with Ardie Savea that attacked the breakdown with great success.

Both players averaged about two turnovers each, with Papalii bringing turnover production that wasn’t happening with Cane.

Cane is a fantastic player, and may well retain the No 7 jersey under Robertson, but if it becomes a free market competition for the job that is still a win for Papalii.

Fergus Burke

The All Blacks need more than one new No 10 in 2024 with the departures of Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett to Japan Rugby League One, while Damian McKenzie’s future is also yet to be confirmed.

Burke is going to be thrust into the 10 jersey at the Crusaders in Mo’unga’s absence next year and already has a number of years in the squad under Robertson in Christchurch.

There is familiarity there with Burke that other emerging candidates don’t have.

The 23-year-old will well and truly by in the mix as an option at 10-15 alongside Stephen Perofeta, Brett Cameron, Ruben Love, Aidan Morgan, and Zarn Sullivan.

Ian Foster

The glass half-full take on Foster here is that the man is a winner already given he somehow bargained an extra two years as All Blacks head coach.

The captain of the ship let his assistants go down with the boat while he jumped aboard a new one.

Very rarely does that happen in professional sport, with the head coach being the first head to roll.

When you consider that the axe fell on Wayne Pivac, Eddie Jones, and Dave Rennie, Foster is the most privileged of the bunch.

The 57-year-old still has the chance to add to his All Blacks legacy at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and right the wrongs of the 2019 campaign.

He has spent 12 years in the All Blacks environment, winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup as an assistant with one of the greatest Test sides of all time.

He’s been a part of long decade of All Blacks success, and has one last shot at glory.

Foster does not need a pity party, he has won.

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Losers

Joe Schmidt

Schmidt has signalled his intent to finish up as an All Blacks assistant after the World Cup already which is a loss for NZR and for the All Blacks.

The former Ireland head coach has been a major coup for the All Blacks coaching staff and any team meeting without Schmidt’s brain involved probably has a lower output.

He brings a ton of experience, a track record of success and intimate knowledge of what now is the world’s best team. Not having him around post-2023 is a big loss.

Sam Cane

The current All Black captain could stand to lose his captaincy under the new head coach. This is just standard operating risk whenever leadership changes and decision-making power is in new hands.

However, should he lose the All Black captaincy, his monopolistic grip on the starting openside position becomes less secure.

Cane has a non-playing sabbatical option in 2024 so might opt to take a year out anyway and assess his future.

Hoskins Sotutu

The arrival of Robertson is likely to come with the arrival of many Crusaders loose forwards.

Sotutu has performed well with the Blues over the last two seasons but his brief opportunities with the All Blacks have been shaky as the back-up No 8.

Ardie Savea will be available for the All Blacks in 2024, despite heading to Japan, which means Sotutu could be the one to find himself lower down the pecking order if Robertson turns to the likes of Grace and Blackadder.

Richie Mo’unga

Mo’unga has won in a financial sense by securing the riches on offer in Japan for the next three years, but the stars have aligned for the opportunity to run the All Blacks backline unopposed.

The 44-Test All Black would have been a lock at 10 under Robertson with no competition apparent if he stayed.

He has been the best player in New Zealand since 2020 in Super Rugby with no rival.

The 28-year-old has lost out on a golden opportunity to become a 100-Test All Black and build a legacy in the black jersey to rival Barrett and Carter.

Crusaders

Losing the coach who has won every title available in six years is never going to be easy.

The organisation will be happy to see Robertson get the opportunity but they no doubt will struggle to find an equal replacement.

 

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Comments

2 Comments
J
Jen 452 days ago

I have no concern for the people who are ‘losers’ because Razor is going to be coach. I only care about myself, and this makes me very happy. 😆

N
Northandsouth 453 days ago

Joe Schmidt (or Jamie Joseph for that matter) needn't be losers. The Blues and Canes will need new head coaches if MacDonald and Holland are tapped as expected. Give an up and coming coach a chance with the Saders and we could have a mix of two internationally experienced ABs coach successors and young, hungry new blood coaches in SR - a fantastic place to be.

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