The All Blacks have extended coach Ian Foster’s contract through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but not all of New Zealand’s loyal supporters were thrilled with the decision
The decision to reappoint Foster has led to criticism from fans and pundits alike, with some suggesting the announcement could have waited while others don’t believe he’s the right man for the job.
But the All Blacks at least now have an understanding as to who will lead them into the next World Cup in France, hoping to win the tournament for the third time in four attempts.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson praised the incumbent for his work in the role thus far: “Ian has faced extraordinary times since he was first appointed, with the uncertainty of Covid-19 and the numerous challenges it has thrown up, and he’s shown remarkable composure and resolve to lead incredibly well through it all.
“Foz has built an outstanding culture and environment in the team with an inclusive and collaborative approach and maintained a steady, clear focus on our goal of being Number 1 in the world again.
“There is no doubt Foz and his team are performing extremely well in trying conditions and we are pleased to send a strong signal of support to create certainty in our environment and allow the management team and player group to plan for the future.
“On behalf of NZR and the Board, I want to congratulate Foz and his team and wish them all the best for the rest of this season and beyond.”
But some sections of the nation’s fan base were far from content with the reappointment, and many pointed to the All Blacks’ patchy 2020 record as cause for concern.
One fan warned of the upcoming clashes against the Springboks and wrote: “Wow. 50% record in 2020. Worst All Blacks record in history. Has not even played South Africa or England. Horrendous decision.”
Meanwhile, Marc Hinton of Stuff.co.nz suggested NZR had low requirements for the job: “Interesting call. Won half his tests last year without playing any of the top teams in the world. So far has beaten a weak Wallabies side twice. That’s clearly enough for NZR.”
Another supporter was certain Foster, 56, couldn’t live up to the standards of predecessor Steve Hansen, who won the World Cup in 2015: “Love the AB’s but this guy won’t win us the next World Cup. Hope he proves me wrong.”
New Zealand recently defeated Australia in back-to-back meetings to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th straight year.
However, they’ll soon face a more difficult test against reigning world champions South Africa after SANZAAR confirmed a new schedule for the Rugby Championship to be completed in Queensland.
Scott “Razor” Robertson has earned calls to be appointed New Zealand coach after guiding the Crusaders to five consecutive Super Rugby titles (two in the Aotearoa competition).
Numerous fans echoed support for the Crusaders boss on Twitter, with one writing: “Wrong choice, it should have been Razor.”
Eyebrows have been raised at the timing of the announcement, with some suggesting it would have been more logical to assess Foster’s situation after the Rugby Championship.
One critic tweeted: “Just made it easier for the Boks.”
Foster commented that he was “privileged” to be part of the All Blacks setup, adding: “It’s clearly been a challenging couple of years with Covid-19, but I’ve been hugely proud of the resilience shown by the team. I’m personally driven to have our team continue to succeed as we build to Rugby World Cup 2023.
“What is equally important to me is the fact that I’m just one part of an outstanding coaching and management team and to continue working with them is a privilege and inspires me to be the best head coach I can be.
“We have the immediate challenge of this year’s Fortinet Rugby Championship and then the tour North, but 2022 and 2023 will bring their own challenges. I’m really excited to be leading the team into the future and can’t wait to get stuck into our work.”
Foster served as Hansen’s assistant for seven years before he was appointed to the head role in 2019, just as Hansen was No. 2 to his predecessor, Graham Henry, before being given the top job.
New Zealand have won all five of their Tests so far in 2021, but the upcoming trip to Australia as part of the Rugby Championship will present their first away journey of the year.