What will it take for the New Zealand rugby board to cancel Foster’s contract and pay him out? Forget the World Cup. There is no way they’re going to win that anyway.
But if the Bledisloe Cup goes across the Tasman this year, after a near 20-year run, the clamour for change will be hard to ignore. And losing the Bledisloe looks completely on the cards right now, wouldn’t you say?
Ask yourself: What influence has Foster brought to the All Blacks under his charge, other than a propensity for losing every second game? What stamp has he made on one of the world’s top sporting brands other than completely tarnishing it? As others have said, there appears to be no structure, no logical game plan, no ability to deal with rush defence - just a reliance on luck and individual pieces of brilliance.
Of course, Foster would say in his defence that the All Blacks have to deal with a disrupted schedule due to the ongoing pandemic, but then so has everybody else. He might also say that NZ rugby, due to the drift of talent overseas, does not have the depth it once did. But the Kiwis in the Irish team, dismissed locally as journeymen, were passed over before they drifted offshore for better opportunities. That they are shining in a different environment must say something about the paucity of ideas at home and the attraction of a better set-up elsewhere.
Putting aside individuals, one might also say that all this is an inevitable result of globalisation of talent and the arrival of a tipping point in the ongoing export to the north of NZ rugby intellectual and playing capital. But then that overlooks the fact that some world class coaching talent remains on local shores, including a six times winning Super rugby coach and the recently returned Kiwi who masterminded Ireland’s renaissance.
Perhaps Foster’s strongest defence is the fact that margins in international rugby have tightened. The North no longer lags the south by default, as can be seen in the clean sweep by Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland in their return serves against NZ, Australia, South Africa and Argentina this weekend. The days of the RC sides being automatically fitter, stronger, faster and more resilient and resourceful are over.
But then that is an even stronger argument for a world-class coaching set-up at home featuring coaches who are innovative, forward-thinking, globally attuned and able to get the very best out of the playing resources we have. We can’t control pandemics, the strength of the opposition, the vagaries of the rule book, the variability of referees, the globalisation of the game - we CAN ensure we have a coaching and management structure that provides a hothouse for talent and ideas and preserves and enhances the All Black brand.
Again, I come back to my first question: What will it take for the NZ rugby authorities to grasp that all of that is now at risk?