New Zealand’s wait for a new All Blacks head coach is over after Ian Foster, Steve Hansen’s former assistant, was promoted to the position on a two-year contract. Foster was on a two-man shortlist for the job – one of the most high-profile and scrutinised roles in the country – after Hansen stepped down following the recent World Cup.
The 54-year-old got the nod ahead of Crusaders coach Scott Robertson as New Zealand Rugby chose to continue its succession policy of filling the top job from within. Foster served as Hansen’s assistant for eight years and played an integral part in a golden era for the All Blacks which included an unbeaten season in 2013 and World Cup success in 2015.
“The NZR board has today ratified Ian Foster as the new head coach of the All Blacks from 2020,” NZR chairman Brent Impey said. “He brings world-class international experience to the role, an incredibly strong coaching team, and we think he’ll do an outstanding job.”
Hansen, who himself replaced his former boss Graham Henry in 2012 after a similarly lengthy stint as assistant, stepped down at the conclusion of the recent World Cup in Japan, where the All Blacks reached the semi-finals before being knocked out by England. The defeat ended Kiwi hopes of securing a third successive world title.
NZR said it conducted a “lengthy and robust interview process” before settling on its preferred candidate, who has already assembled his back-room staff with four other coaches, to be named in due course.
“The interview process was extensive and really difficult, which reflects the very strong applications from both candidates,” Impey said. “While we can’t confirm the full make-up of the coaching team today, we’re delighted with the quality they bring – they have a wide range of coaching experiences and are a diverse group of thinkers.”
Foster’s appointment heralds a new chapter for rugby in New Zealand, with a new CEO of the game’s governing body, Mark Robinson, also on his way in following Steve Tew’s announcement in June that he would step away at the end of the year.
“These are exciting times,” Robinson said. “Ian has pulled together a very strong team and he is an outstanding person in his own right with a high-quality set of values. He is committed to stamping his own mark on the team and it’s clear that he and his coaching team want to bring a new and fresh energy into the All Blacks environment.”
Seen as a risky appointment in some parts, Foster’s first task will be to win over a sceptical New Zealand public after the popular Robertson was overlooked. But the former Chiefs coach said he was looking forward to the challenge.
“I feel truly privileged and honoured to be given this opportunity and I can’t wait to lead the team into the next chapter of what is a remarkable legacy,” Foster said. “I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the All Blacks over the last eight years and I’m excited and energised by a new coaching team who will join me.”
Robinson said the decision to overlook Robertson was not taken lightly. “As someone who knows ‘Razor’ well as a former teammate, he was a very impressive candidate and these decisions are never easy. We know Razor is an outstanding coach and I have no doubt he’ll have a big future in our game at international level.”
Foster graduated to the All Blacks setup in 2012 after spending eight years and over 100 games in charge of the Chiefs in Super Rugby. Installed as assistant coach with the national team, he was also a selector and confidant to Hansen. Together they worked on strategy and during Foster’s time as assistant, the All Blacks boasted an 87% winning record.
More information: THE GUARDIAN.