Two former All Blacks have weighed in on the highly-speculated future of under-pressure All Blacks coach Ian Foster in the wake of New Zealand’s historic series defeat to Ireland.
Foster is under immense public pressure to leave his post as All Blacks boss after guiding his side to a first-ever home series loss at the hands of the Irish, who convincingly beat the Kiwis 32-22 in Wellington on Saturday.
That result came a week after Ireland clinched a maiden win over the All Blacks in New Zealand, beating the hosts 23-12 in Dunedin.
Sam Cane and Ian Foster speak to media after All Blacks loss to Ireland
As such, the All Blacks have now lost four of their last five tests – their worst run of form since they lost fives tests on the trot in 1998 – and have plummeted to a worst-ever World Rugby ranking of fourth place.
The series defeat to Ireland was also only their fourth-ever home series loss, and their first since France swept them over the course of two tests in 1994.
Now with the worst winning record of any All Blacks coach in the professional era (66.67 percent), Foster’s position at the helm of the All Blacks has come under fire.
After refusing to comment on his future in the role despite being asked to do so four times during Saturday’s post-match press conference, Foster was then made unavailable to speak to media by the All Blacks for his usual Sunday morning debrief.
That was soon followed by a statement issued by New Zealand Rugby [NZR] chief executive Mark Robinson, who labeled the series defeat to Ireland as “not acceptable” and said a review into the performance of the All Blacks is now being undertaken.
All of this has led to a media and social media firestorm regarding what role Foster has with the All Blacks ahead of the Rugby Championship, which has drawn the ire of All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan.
speaking on The BreakdownKirwan said he was left frustrated by Robinson’s statement as Foster’s livelihood remains in the balance with less than three weeks until the All Blacks open their two-test series against the Springboks in South Africa.
“That statement from the CEO really annoys me,” Kirwan said as he called into question the need for another review after NZR conducted a performance review of the All Blacks following their underwhelming 2021 campaign.
“We’ve had it six months ago… Foster reviewed well, his assistants didn’t, and I presume he went and said, ‘We’ll fix it’. After six months, if it’s still clunky and it’s not working, what do you do?”
Kirwan went on to claim that Robinson is “throwing his coach under the bus” by not providing a definitive statement about Foster’s position as All Blacks coach as speculation continues to swirl about his future.
The 63-test World Cup winner added that something must change within the All Blacks to fix the “disconnection” within the playing group, which he suggested was similar to that of his ill-fated stint as Blues head coach between 2013 and 2015.
“I think there’s something wrong within the camp,” Kirwan told The Breakdown.
“I’ve never coached at that level, but I was a bad coach. We couldn’t win a football game, and it’s because I wasn’t good enough. I got reviewed and I had to change stuff. I still wasn’t good enough.
“We couldn’t win a fight. We’d lose games by two points, players just disconnected. There’s a disconnection in that team. I feel it. I don’t know for certain, but I feel a disconnection, and Ian Foster has to sort that out somehow.”
Kirwan’s fellow panelist and fellow ex-All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson, meanwhile, said that there won’t be a change of All Blacks head coach as he believed Foster is “determined” to hold onto the role and turn his side’s fortunes around.
“Ian Foster wants to keep this job. He is determined to be the All Blacks coach,” Wilson told The Breakdown.
“He is not going anywhere. He is not going anywhere. I think he is determined. He wants to help be a solution for the All Blacks.”
In saying that, Wilson expressed concerns about the way in which the All Blacks performed against Ireland, but questioned whether it would be the right call to appoint a new head coach with the Rugby Championship a matter of weeks away.
“Clearly it’s concerning that we’re not starting well. It’s clearly concerning, and like you say, it looks as though we get to a point where we maybe run out of ideas, or the fact that, defensively, we start to gamble,” he said.
“We’re starting to gamble, guys running out of the line because we’re under that much pressure.
“Clearly there are some systematic things that we need to look at, but for us to try and make a change now, to put a group of coaches together for the Rugby Championship in two-and-a-half weeks’ time?”
Kirwan responded by saying that he doesn’t want to see anyone within the All Blacks lose their job, but reaffirmed that those involved with the side must ask hard questions of themselves in order to change their fortunes.
“All I’m saying is I don’t want to see anyone lose their job. I feel for Fozzie. I feel for the players, but if it’s not working – Colesy [All Blacks hooker Dane Coles] said it, we’ve always done it – look in the mirror and tell the truth,” he said.
“If someone’s not up to it, unfortunately, and it might be a player or a coach, then Fozzie will have to make some change.
“If all’s good and we’re on the right path, I go, ‘Okay, Ireland were better and we weren’t that good’, but I don’t see that at the moment. That’s what hurts me.”
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