As the conquering Irish returned home from their stunning series triumph, the All Blacks had to ponder a crisis of confidence with two Tests against the world champion Springboks in less than a month.
Ian Foster’s position as a manager still looks secure despite winning just one of New Zealand’s last five matches, including back-to-back home defeats to Ireland which New Zealand Rugby (NZR) judged” unacceptable”. Last August NZR gave Foster a contract extension until next year’s World Cup but his win rate as All Blacks manager now stands at 66.7 per cent, although below the 80% and more enjoyed by his two World Cup-winning predecessors.
The two Tests in South Africa kick off the Rugby Championship and All Blacks great John Kirwan believes Foster will have the chance to put things right in this competition. “I believe Ian Foster can turn things around, well he has to turn things around,” the former Italy manager told Newstalk ZB radio on Monday. “With the Rugby Championship, if we win this and see signs of improvement, then I think it will survive. If not, I think it will be a very interesting debate.” That debate would no doubt center on the merits of handing the job over to Scott Robertson, who lost to Foster in 2019 but went on to enjoy year-round success with the Canterbury Crusaders.
New Zealand tend to fuss around the All Blacks at even the slightest setback and NZR canceling a Foster press conference on Sunday while promising an Irish series review did little to calm the nerves of a nation. “It didn’t help the situation, I don’t think,” former All Blacks scrum-half Justin Marshall told TV Station Three on Monday.
“There is definitely a way forward and they have to look into why it was bad, but they have to do it internally.” The good news is that South Africa just overtook Wales in their July series, while Australia didn’t look like a team capable of reclaiming the Bledisloe Cup after 19 years at the hands of New Zealand. Zealand as they lost their home series to England.
Marshall said he felt changes were needed to the game plan but the fundamentals of All Blacks rugby were still good despite falling to a record low of fourth in the world rankings. “We have to go back to playing rugby instinctively,” he added.
“But we have the talent, we have the depth, we have the players. There were still signs in this round of testing that the All Blacks can get back to the top of the world.”
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