Heading into July, the All Blacks were after redemption.
They had finished 2022 with back-to-back losses in the Northern Hemisphere, a feat not many All Black sides in the past had achieved. There was grace, however, as the losses came at the end of a long, covid-disrupted tour.
A three Test series against Ireland presented itself as the perfect opportunity to wrestle back some of the Kiwi pride in rugby, gain dominance over the Northern Hemisphere once more, and build momentum heading into next year’s World Cup.
Far from achieving this, however, the All Blacks lost the series 2-1 to Ireland.
Now, the question many are asking, is whether or not All Black’s coach Ian Foster should pay for these poor performances.
How bad are the current All Blacks?
It may seem like an over reaction to talk about firing the All Black’s coach after losing a series 2-1.
Here’s the thing: The All Blacks have now lost four out of their last five games.
For the most successful international rugby team in history, who have an all-time winning percentage of 77.12%, losing four out of five matches is nearly unprecedented.
Not since 1994 have New Zealand lost a series at home. Never before have they slipped as low as they currently sit, fourth on the global rankings. Prior to July, Ireland had never beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand. Now, they’ve done it two weeks in a row.
When seen through the legacy of New Zealand rugby, the All Black’s performance over the last six months has been nothing short of horrid.
All signs pointing towards a change
Following the All Black’s defeat to Ireland on the weekend, coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane fronted up to the press for their usual post-match engagement.
Unsurprisingly, they were peppered with questions from the media regarding Ian Foster’s suitability as coach, and Cane’s as captain. Both pushed back, refusing to answer questions about the topic, to the point where an All Blacks media manager had to step in and deflect the journalists’ questions.
The following day, Ian Foster suddenly withdrew from his regular Sunday press conference, with no reason given to the media, and journalists left empty-handed. This was accompanied by a statement from New Zealand rugby, stating,
“Congratulations to the Irish team for their well-deserved win last night but clearly the performance across the series for the All Blacks was not acceptable as we know they have reflected.
“We all know there is a huge amount of work to do. Our focus now is to work with Ian and his team to understand thoroughly in advance of the Rugby Championship what is needed to improve performance and where to from here. We will begin this work immediately.”
Such a statement from NZR in the middle of a season is incredibly uncommon, and does not bode well for Ian Foster’s prospects of maintaining his job beyond the end of this week.
New Zealand’s options moving forward
With the Rugby World Cup just around the corner in late 2023, a change of coaching staff right now is unideal.
However, drastic action may be the only option, given the All Black’s poor form.
So what does that change look like?
In reality, there are two strong options, but there’s no guaranteeing either of them would be practically possible.
Scott Robertson, current Crusader’s coach, is the favorite option in the eyes of the New Zealand public to take over the head coach position from Ian Foster. Robertson has led the Crusaders to six titles in as many years, an unparalleled coaching record, of a team that contains the lion’s share of New Zealand’s All Blacks.
Robertson has little international coaching experience however, and may not want to take over a struggling All Blacks side as his first assignment.
The other option is previous Irish coach Joe Schmidt, who led the men in green to their first two wins over the All Blacks. The Kiwi has a strong international coaching record, and has recently joined the All Blacks set up in a limited capacity.
Schmidt himself has expressed a desire to remain retired from international head coaching, however, could the prospect of rescuing the All Blacks lure him away from this?