2024 All Blacks squad won’t include current head coach Ian Foster

2024 All Blacks squad won't include current head coach Ian Foster

As the debate and swings and roundabouts of public machinations from New Zealand Rugby, the disclosure that the 2024 All Blacks squad won’t include current head coach Ian Foster.

This week, as his employers publicly addressed discussion over the appointment of the next coaching group, leading to the the incumbent ‘calling time’ on his final term in the coveted role.

Speaking only hours after New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chair Dame Patsy Reddy made an address on the topic, current coach Ian Foster undercut the process by choosing not to apply for the role ongoing after the 2023 Rugby World Cup. It added hot water to an already bubbly brew which the New Zealand administration seem ill-prepared, and misdirected in their goal of an early appointment.

And that call by NZR is – by outward statements – made because of the movements and demand of International coaches. Some candidates suggested as candidates who might be snapped up by other nations, if NZR did not act swiftly.

Yet, it is the bumbling and somewhat indiscreet actions that have radio commentators and observers calling the proceedings into question. Asking whether chief executive Mark Robinson has been ‘misleading’ in his support of Ian foster, yet all the while engaging Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson and others to apply for a role; usually announced post-World Cup.

Nothing is usual in this saga though, as the whims of high performance were dangled as predetermination for (almost) sacking head coach Ian Foster mid-season. His losing trend appeared to frighten the NZR board into predetermining his replacement, only to surprise fans when they had a sudden change of mind after the victory over South Africa in Johannesburg. It came out of the blue, stunning broadcasted media predictions that Robertson would take over the reins exactly on the side’s return to NZ. That was a deplorable process according to Newstalk ZB hosts, and undermined the confidence with what the organization should have held in Foster.

Now he has taken the sharp decision himself to withdraw from the selection process, and left rugby commentators ignominious. Wondering how deep the crisis will bury hopes of a seamless transition? Some say it will directly impede the 2023 group’s progress in France, [current and former players included] while others say Foster is pulling out rightly so now, so the next best can take over cleanly after the New Year’s break in late 2023.

2024 All Blacks squad won’t include current head coach Ian Foster

In an incredibly short statement from NZR, the under-fire organization released a comment expressed from the All Blacks head coach Ian Foster. He stated; “As I said last week, I felt the best thing for our team and for our entire management group was to have this process done after the Rugby World Cup. That hasn’t happened but we will accept the decision and move on.

All Blacks head coach role assured for Ian Foster until RWC2023
Ian Foster and CEO Mark Robinson, in happier times as All Blacks head coach. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

“My sole focus remains unchanged. It is to lead this All Blacks team and management group in our planning and preparation so that we go to France with the goal of winning the Rugby World Cup and making this country proud.”

“I won’t be re-applying for the job of head coach.”

This followed the admission from NZR that a decision to ‘commence the appointment’ was going to be finalized within four to six weeks. A move that would have been taken under consultation with Foster, as well as a Zoom conference call with senior All Blacks, to be sure the playing group was well aware of the call to go ahead with naming the next All Blacks coach sooner rather than later; normally once Foster’s contract expired in November 2023.

Over the early course of the week, former captain Kieran Read added his commentary to the situation. His view would not have enclosed inter-personal messages sent from Monday and Tuesday by New Zealand Rugby, prior to the March 1st press release. By coincidence, no association can be brought between the two, although the Read comments were pro-Foster > negative toward the governing body, or more so on the Board.

An easy target, yet by agreement and by association, it paints each with the same brush now. That includes Dr Farah Palmer, as well as representatives from Canterbury, Auckland, from both islands, and from each camp [it must be assumed].

So yes, the 2024 All Blacks squad won’t include current head coach Ian Foster. It won’t include many players though who are said to be (a) retiring, (b) completing their contracted period within two years, or (c) holding a longer future pathway within New Zealand Rugby. Some will have immediately aimed for the Super Rugby Pacific 2023 season championship, so what ‘a giant-sized distraction’ this must feel like (in a Rugby World Cup calendar sense) . That is with respect, referencing the finite period left on head coach Ian Foster’s contract himself.

Editorial: NZR mishandling of the whole AB’s coach saga

NZR chair Dame Patsy Reddy wrote in an NZR media release stating; ‘Following wide-ranging consultation and after carefully weighing up all scenarios and the key lessons from 2019, New Zealand Rugby is now commencing a process for selecting the All Blacks Head Coach from 2024. We appreciate these decisions are challenging as we try to find the balance between public scrutiny and high-performance expectations, within the need to safeguard our responsibilities and ensure we are prioritizing conversations internally, with our people.

‘Until now, New Zealand Rugby has been reluctant to talk publicly about an appointment process for the All Blacks Coach to protect the integrity of the process, and to minimise the scrutiny on the individuals involved. Recent events, however, necessitate some clarity’.

If NZR wanted clarity, it might like to follow the timeline since Ian Foster’s appointment, which had the faint tinge of an ‘inside call’. Elevated initially to the role over others, shoulder tapped years prior as the heir apparent to Sir Steve Hansen. And over the course of three years, he has been unpopular for many wrong and some right reasons.

For lost series, matches, and even with the lost freedom to travel under a global pandemic blanket, his record is clouded. So a season lost, an abbreviated one and then a year that offered little but took a lot out of supporters ideals of the All Blacks aura. It took a record away from the coaching group – one that was trimmed and repurposed with assistant coaches removed mid term. It was at times bitter, sometimes embarrassing.

Newstalk ZB midday host Simon Barnett personalized the sentiment when he broadcast his view that it was “deplorable treatment” of Ian Foster. True in some ways, all the while countered by the statute of a contract signed until the end of 2023. Yet few were to prescribe that when Scott Robertson supporters continued to hold sure hope that the successful Crusaders’ chief  is a likely replacement, a challenge might now come from Japan head coach Jamie Joseph.

But that is still weeks away, and it hurts the current group that they cannot feel entirely supported –  a statement echoed by current All Black Sam Cane.

If the terms of the coach were the only issue, then some might ask “when does any new All Blacks head coach begin his role?” and would the loss of intellectual property [in Ian Foster] be negligible to the organization? Answers that can be asked, yet NZR is proficient at side-stepping most questions; by not having an open forum to discuss it.

Behind closed doors is literally the NZR office mantra.

Aside from reaction to the news head coach Ian Foster would not be re-applying for his position, it has to be said that the handling over the last 24 months by New Zealand Rugby is looked at as below par. Mis-managed; and that is at all levels. Right from the media managers/PR agents, to the executive, and to the board in general. That is a bad look, on top of a lopsided reaction to the trend in rugby to sign/re-sign coaches ahead of a Rugby World Cup outcome, as you never know how far ahead you can plan with a professional contract in this modern era.

Or in how any replacement is selected; as in this case in point.


“Main image graphic courtesy of All Blacks Instagram page