With these All Blacks it's about coaching and leadership, plain and simple
Hubris is at the heart of the issue here.
Not Ian Foster’s, necessarily, although find me a coach that doesn’t believe they have the answers to everything.
Let’s be honest here.
Foster was never the right man to be All Blacks coach and, were the game under better management, he would’ve been gone at the end of either of the team’s 2020 or 2021 campaigns.
Look, journalism is about snap judgements. It’s about meeting people, sizing them up, chatting away and then reaching conclusions.
If journalists are qualified in anything, it’s that.
We talk to good people, bad people, smart people and dim people and we realise very quickly who’s who.
Who among us then, be they media, fans or only occasional watchers of rugby, has ever been captivated by Ian Foster? Who’s been dazzled by his brilliance and charisma? Who’s been struck by the man’s acumen and authority?
People will say that Foster is potentially a good coach and that, just because he doesn’t have a great public persona, doesn’t mean he’s not good at his job.
And I’d counter with Ireland’s 2-1 series win on these shores and various All Blacks defeats overseas.
Do you, in your heart of hearts, believe Ireland’s players are better than ours? Do you?
There’s no doubt they’re better coached, more united and more successful right now. But are they actually better?
Man for man, most of us would agree the All Blacks have more talent.
So it’s about coaching and leadership, plain and simple.
Or, more to the point, the absence of both.
If NZR were leaders, they’d have led by now. They’d have accepted their appointment error and moved on.
Instead, and this is where the hubris comes in, they’re too proud to admit their fault.
Imagine that? Imagine being so tied to the belief in your own infallibility, that you’d rather lose test matches than admit you got it wrong.
Well, I’d wager the losses being piled up by this coaching regime is doing more damage to the All Blacks’ brand than any admission of failure ever could.
It’s obscene that journalists were prevented from asking Foster about his future, following Saturday’s 32-22 defeat to Ireland. It’s shameful that there was no Sunday morning press briefing, as has always been the custom. It’s pathetic that the best we got instead was an inadequate press release quoting NZR chief executive Mark Robinson.
He and Foster should be fronting the public. They should be taking hard questions and asserting their leadership credentials.
And, if they’re not prepared to do that, then they should go.
I hear Foster talk endlessly of lessons and markers. Of sobering realisations about the standards the once mighty All Blacks have to aspire to.
And then I sit and cringe at the ineptitude of performances, such as Saturday night’s.
Well, have your thorough review of the Ireland series, NZR. Sit down with old mate Fozzie and develop support structures and strategies to better-equip the team for success.
Send out the subsequent press release, stating your full confidence in the coaching staff and excitement at the challenges ahead.
Just don’t be surprised when that fails to stem the tide of public disquiet.
Everyone wants to support the team. They love the players and the jersey and they revel in the status the All Blacks have afforded New Zealand on the world stage.
But people are hurt right now. They’re disillusioned and disappointed and they believe a change in coach could fix that.
But they also know it’s not in NZR’s nature to admit when they’re wrong and, for that reason, they’re about ready to give up on this team while things remain the same.
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