After announcements on Sunday, July 24, the question has arisen of how far are recent All Blacks coaching staff changes going to go? That comes after a series loss to Ireland this year, on top of losses across 2021.
In news that came days after a press conference securing the role of the head coach and captain, John Plumtree and Brad Mooar were this weekend removed from the All Blacks coaching staff, replaced by Jason Ryan. Two men replaced by only one, with roles redefined for head coach Ian Foster as well. The man most under pressure, he will now take on more responsibility in attack, supported by selector and Director of Rugby, Joe Schmidt.
This re-arrangement is a move by New Zealand Rugby (NZR) in response to widespread displeasure at the performances of the national team. Though some will only be happy with a change at the apex of the coaching group, the removal of men who Foster assembled himself takes place before the side travels to South Africa on Friday.
The 2022 Rugby Championship begins on August 6, when old rivals the Springboks host the All Blacks in two Test matches in the republic. This Test is going to be a measure of how new coaching staff changes impact the New Zealand team’s on-field performance. Yet with the acrimony from their fanbase, how NZR has handled the fallout from the Irish Test series loss is also under fire.
A press conference on Friday did not reveal these changes, which shows how public relations has been positioned highly – and some claim too highly – before recognizing the failures of the personnel involved. Their role themselves in canceling a planned media session the day after the series loss and NZR’s continued support of an under-fire head coach and the All Blacks skipper Sam Cane too is diminishing some of the global rugby side’s marquee value.
Pressure is still on all All Blacks coaching staff members, including the incoming Crusaders forwards coach Ryan, to ensure that more place changes do not follow his introduction. If the ‘rot is not stopped’ then others may also be removed by the will of the stakeholders.
How far are recent All Blacks coaching staff changes going to go?
To remove several of the All Blacks coaching staff; instead of players, points to there being discontent within the squad. How deeply that runs is unknown. Leading up to the Friday media session, suspicion was that Cane would be removed as captain. That did not occur, so the idea that the men who coach and train the side had not performed to expectations lingered.
Appears that with the replacement of Mooar (left) & Plumtree in the All Blacks coaching staff, NZR has the instinct to react to public sentiment.
If Jason Ryan comes in & things still do not improve, how far are recent All Blacks coaching staff changes going to go?#rugbychat pic.twitter.com/YntZUsxOwd
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) July 24, 2022
This afternoon’s announcement, therefore, proves that the external calls for change were answered. Mooar and Plumtree will not continue to assist Foster, and he expressed in the media, “Right now, I am really feeling for two fine men who are great rugby coaches that made an enormous contribution to the All Blacks,” Foster said.“I have no doubt both coaches will go on to great success and I want to thank them for their hard work.”
Jason Ryan has been assistant coach for Fiji during the Pacific Nations Cup [won by Samoa] and has an impeccable record as assistant to Scott Robertson at the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise. It must be felt that his inclusion will ‘bring a fresh voice’ and thinking that might help increase the forward pack’s performance. It speaks sadly of Plumtree’s position. And with Mooar also abandoned, there is a reality that further All Blacks coaching staff changes could result if the right outcomes are not achieved in Africa, and then during the Tests in New Zealand against Argentina and in Australia.
Foster appeared on the SkySport program, The Breakdown on Sunday night. He explained the reasoning of Ryan’s introduction, after robust discussion internally with staff and senior players. “As is normal after a series [NZR conducted a review] and out of that I think we got a clear mandate that there’s a strong belief in the direction we’re going, but there’s a feeling we need to get a new voice in there and make some changes to get the gains we really want to get. And part of their feedback was strong about their own leadership and things they need to do better, it wasn’t just about management/coaching staff.
“I said to our leaders and senior players, ‘you go guys away and have a think about where we’re at the things we have to move’.”
“I believe I’ve got the group and now I’ve got to deliver the plan and so part of the changes I’ve made is about making sure I’m not taking for granted their belief in the direction that I’m heading. But I’m also listening to them and making the changes that we all feel we need for this team,” Foster said.
He also spoke confidently of his remaining staff; Scott McLeod and Greg Feek. Yet for all the confidence that Foster displays, there is now an example that if the performances don’t meet the expectations, then recent All Blacks coaching staff changes may not stop with Mooar and Plumtree alone. Accountability in professional sport is a reality that New Zealand Rugby is experiencing currently, as repeated losses to Ireland saw that nation’s first-ever win in New Zealand, and a first-ever series win against the All Blacks.
Jason Ryan brought into All Blacks coaching staff structure
Interviewed during a Christchurch club rugby final, he was delighted [naturally] and said, “pretty overwhelmed but, looking forward to what is ahead”. Then asked if the team can win in South Africa, he said “we’ve got a lot of work to do. But I’ll start thinking about that next week.”
He will be required to hit the ground running and has resigned from his assistant role to Vern Cotter and the Flying Fijians. He must close that workbook, and immediately absorb all the key information on the All Blacks structure. An entirely different organization. Ryan is likely to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of – what some called, as SOS. Headhunted for his skill as a forwards coach, he must work closely with Foster and Greg Feek in the short term.
It is believed he will bring a new voice to the camp, and by the time the squad arrives and sets up in Pretoria, ahead of their first match in Nelspruit, he should have a full grasp of the expectations and how Ryan could influence the future course of the harrassed All Blacks coaching group.
Rugby Championship the next goal for All Blacks
The All Blacks assemble in Wellington on Monday, July 25, where Jason Ryan will be introduced to The Rugby Championship squad [named last week]. He will know some and will want to make a good first impression over the few days, prior to the group flying to South Africa for what will be the toughest assignment of his coaching career.
For Ian Foster, the relentless pressure that he said he “relishes” may become a spotlight under which he can find no shelter. And if the results do not go the way of the New Zealand side, then the original question of ‘how far are recent All Blacks coaching staff changes are going to go’ may in fact not stop with Plumtree and Mooar’s dismissal.
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