Perth Test star Akiro Ioane.

They bring a complete package. …. You saw them score maul tries, defend mauls, their kicking game, their continuity game, athleticism, I love it. –Queensland Reds coach, Brad Thorn, speaking about the current All Blacks

By Roger Childs

The right chief coach?

Six tests so far and six decisive victories. This is Ian Foster’s record so far this season and seems to be providing vindication for New Zealand’s Rugby’s early decision to extend Foster’s contract as head coach through to the next World Cup. 

There are many who saw his original appointment as an “establishment” decision as he had been assistant coach to Steve Hansen up to the last World Cup. Foster had previously had a poor record with the Chiefs. Whereas Wallaby’s coach Kiwi Dave Rennie had taken the Waikato based franchise to two Super Rugby titles, the team was well down the table under Foster’s direction.

Many rugby pundits think that the younger and more dynamic Scott Robertson who has been the highly successful coach of the Crusaders, and in earlier times Canterbury, should run the All Blacks. Their case was strengthened when last season the national team had their first ever loss to Argentina and also lost one of the Bledisloe Cup tests to Australia. 

However so far this season Foster’s record is unblemished.

Success in Perth

Last Sunday, in the third Bledisloe Cup test the All Blacks won impressively 36-21 scoring six tries to three. The team was without four of their stars – Captain, Sam Whitelock, half back Aaron Smith, hooker Dane Coles and first five Richie Mo’unga. and in the first half lost Ardie Savea and Codie Taylor with head injuries. Furthermore Jordie Barrett was sent off after kicking Wallaby winger Mapika Koroibete in the head as he came down from taking a high ball. 

With just 14 men for the next twenty minutes the team dug deep and did not concede a point and were able to score another try themselves. The All Blacks have a depth of quality players that is the envy of other international sides. If top players are injured or unavailable, their replacements are often just as good. There is plenty of competition for places in the run-on team each week and this keeps everyone on their toes.

The All Blacks have sometimes been vulnerable in the third Bledisloe test when the Cup has already been won, but on Sunday there was no complacency. They were superior to the Wallabies in all facets of the game and while the forwards dominated in the set pieces and in the loose, the backs played a fast, open game to score a number of well worked tries. The Wallabies kicked too much ball away and the All Blacks capitalised on loose passes and other mistakes. There were many excellent performances by the visitors and the Iaone brothers, David Havilli and Scott Barrett stood out.

It was a decisive win and gives the All Blacks two wins out of two so far in the six matches they will play in the 2021 Rugby Championship.

Looking ahead

Because of covid all the remaining game in this year’s Championship will be played in Queensland over the next four weeks. This coming Sunday the All Blacks take on Argentina and Foster will be mindful of the 25-15 loss to the Pumas last year. He is fortunate in having a very strong squad where the players are well aware of the competition for places in the run-on team.

The All Blacks should comfortably beat Argentina but the Springboks, the winners of the last World Cup, will be a tougher proposition. If Ian Foster can win at least three of the next four games, he will definitely have justified his continuing position as head coach and set the minds of doubters to rest.