Ian Foster: Vote of confidence for New Zealand boss and enhanced role for ex-Ireland coach

In a move that is certain to divide opinion among All Blacks supporters, the New Zealand Rugby Board has given its backing to Ian Foster to continue as head coach up to and including the 2023 World Cup.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster at a news conference in Auckland as it was confirmed he would remain as All Blacks head coach. (Jed Bradley/New Zealand Herald via AP)
All Blacks coach Ian Foster at a news conference in Auckland as it was confirmed he would remain as All Blacks head coach. (Jed Bradley/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The board also announced that former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt had been promoted to full time assistant coach in what will be seen as a concession to Foster’s many detractors. New Zealand-born Schmidt was previously a selector and video analyst for the All Blacks.

The decisions were made following a meeting in Auckland on Wednesday to discuss Foster’s future which has come under intense scrutiny during New Zealand’s worst run of results in 24 years.

Their 35-23 win over South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday ended a run of three straight Test losses.

Former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has been given an enhanced role with the All Blacks. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

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Prior to the Rugby Championship victory at Ellis Park, the All Blacks had lost 26-10 to the Springboks in the same competition at Mbombela. It was their heaviest defeat in South Africa since 1928.

Even more damaging was last month’s home series loss to Ireland during which they were beaten 23-12 and 32-22 in the second and third Tests. It was the first time the All Blacks had lost a three-Test series at home since Australia beat them in 1986.

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Last weekend’s win in Johannesburg looks to have saved Foster.

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Stewart Mitchell, the chair of New Zealand Rugby, said: “[The board] have unanimously agreed they have absolute confidence that Ian and this coaching group are the right people to lead the All Blacks through until the World Cup. This has been privately and publicly validated by our players and various conversations with our high performance team.”

Foster said he welcomed the appointment of Schmidt and looked forward to working alongside the coach who led Ireland to three Six Nations Championships, including a Grand Slam in 2018.

“Joe Schmidt has been on my radar, probably for a couple of years,” Foster said on www.allblacks.com.

“We flagged at the start of this year that his role was to join us after the Irish series as an independent selector to replace Grant Fox and in addition he was going to do some opposition analysis work and work alongside myself in the strategy area.

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“We started that after the Irish series and delighted with how that’s going. I have a great relationship with Joe.”

Mark Robinson, the chief executive of New Zealand Rugby, rather optimistically hailed Wednesday’s announcement as “a new dawn” but conceded it had been a tough few months during which the All Blacks fell to fifth in the world rankings at one point, their lowest ever position. They moved back up to fourth following the win over the Springboks.

“We are trying our best for our sport and our people,” Robinson said. “Sure, we never get everything right, but at no stage do we ever not do what’s best for our people.”

Foster was appointed in 2019 in succession to Steve Hansen, having served as the latter’s assistant, but many All Blacks supporters felt the job should have gone to the Crusaders Super Rugby-winning coach Scott Robertson. However, Foster was the only candidate to receive an interview.

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New Zealand’s next game is against Argentina in the Rugby Championship in Christchurch on August 27.

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