Chris Rattue: It’s time for an emergency procedure – All Blacks coach Ian Foster must go


The first and most obvious thing to say about Argentina’s brilliant win over the All Blacks, from a New Zealand point of view, is that Ian Foster must go.

And he must. New Zealand Rugby needs to admit to its mistake, and change their All Black coach at the end of this season.

But I’d also say this: get used to these rugby disappointments because our players simply aren’t the best in the business any longer, and particularly susceptible to being outmuscled.

While Brand All Black will take a hammering, Saturday night’s classic is what real sport is all about. It was, in an agonising way, absolutely wonderful to watch and Argentina’s vibrant fans are fantastic.

If you could get past marvelling at the sheer physique of the Argentinian forwards, the heroic, rugby-starved, Covid-affected Pumas’ commitment to a game plan was close to perfect.

And to give a wee nod to the All Blacks, no team in the world can match them for keeping the margin relatively close when they deserve a shellacking on the scoreboard.

Given Argentina’s threadbare build up, nobody gave them a chance. And yet, this was not an upset out of nowhere.

In recent times the All Blacks have had a lot of trouble with Ireland and England, couldn’t do the business against the British and Irish Lions, struggled against South Africa at home, and have just been beaten by an Australian team full of journeymen. And even in the record Bledisloe Cup win in Sydney they only played well for half a game.

The All Blacks are getting beaten up, quite regularly, by muscular and superbly-schooled opponents who don’t need to be highly skilled.

Physical preparation, intense analysis and defensive mastery are negating the skill factor in test rugby. There is bugger all room on the field.

Argentina weren’t flashy. But they were very clever, in using their power advantage.

Okay. The All Blacks are struggling physically, and world domination may be a thing of the past. Such is life.

But I’m absolutely certain there is something far more potent within the New Zealand game than Foster – only an average Super Rugby head coach in his day – is capable of unlocking.

His players appear lost in tactics, cohesion, motivation, belief and inspiration.

Previous All Black coaches were very lucky – they had a bloke called Richie McCaw leading the way, setting the standards, showing how to keep your mind on the job, laying a long-lasting foundation.

But it was time for the dawn of a new era when the great Steve Hansen departed, the sound of an English World Cup stampede ringing in his ears.

Sometimes the biggest risk of all is to take no risk at all. Scott Robertson. Tony Brown. The future was with names like that, and it was up to New Zealand Rugby to make that happen.

Instead of taking charge, NZR formed an advisory committee of one – considering the powerful voice of Sir Graham Henry was on it – and discovered an extraordinary 26 coaching candidates which is 25 more than needed if you know what you are doing.

They even missed out on three strong Kiwi candidates, perhaps because they were wedded to a foolish succession plan.

It’s time for an emergency procedure.

The way the All Blacks are playing shows that the many critics of Foster’s appointment were on the money.

He’s not the whole problem, not by a long way. But he is a problem, and a big one.

His haywire selections for the previous test in Brisbane reflected an arrogance which beset the All Blacks in Hansen’s final years.

Foster was part of a truly great All Black regime, under the man I would rate the finest All Black coach ever. But Foster was a lieutenant who ended up as part of a failing operation. The NZR didn’t seem to notice, blinded by previous success.

The miracle wasn’t that New Zealand rugby produced McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Brodie Retallick, Jerome Kaino, three great Smiths, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Beauden Barrett, Keven Mealamu and on and on and on. The miracle was that those players appeared at virtually the same time.

But if there is another golden generation out there, Ian Foster is not the man most likely to create it.

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