Ian Foster is an ethical and likeable guy but his indecisiveness casts a shadow over the darkness


Now is not the time to rhyme, the echoes of before are again pierced in pain.

Ian Foster sets out the same riddles with monotony and boredom. He says “I know” a lot, usually on average, in a three minute interview, about 15 times.

But he doesn’t really know and it shows. I notice that he is saying the exact opposite of what I feel. He talks about the occasion of his size and how he is so “excited” but never looks excited, especially in the box that day.

As I feel terror that will soon be granted to me. I feel it coming, a loss, a heartache and another shattered and almost erased sacred record of its existence, while Foster denies it and hopes.

Foster is a genuine, ethical and likeable guy, but when he is part of arguably the worst decision NZR has ever made, a real discussion needs to take place.

Foster often talks about the magnitude of the occasion and he does so with a smile and says it excites him or it’s a “concoction”. These are games against Ireland at home and against the Boks away. Foster turns up the heat, talks about it, and later negative results come.

It’s the surface mentality with the way Foster talks that has little substance. It’s different if you delve into the hard facts, become one with the real pressure and find deep calm within it, before emerging ready to take it on, the way of a Zen master who says, “Is that so?

Foster goes too light here and it backfires because he has no depth so he has no value. Foster misses the point and the truth, but is slightly smug on occasion under pressure, and with a smile saying it turns him on. It’s a bad rhythm, a feigned frequency and it shows me that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, and it affects the team, even if it’s subconsciously.

On the front, often an easy way to assess a coach is on his selections. If it doesn’t, it continues.

The All Black front row needs youth. The ‘All Blacks babies’ are doing very well as they begin their journey early. Foster arrived far too late with Ethan De Groot and Samisoni Taukei’aho – abandoned and then drip-fed. Young people coming in with maybe Joe Moody and Owen Franks to add substance to the new wave is a novelty they need.

Cowardly forwards, we all know, are wrong except Foster. It should be Ardie Savea at 7, Cullen Grace at 8 and pick a big 6 that matches that mix. Sam Cane on the bench at best (fringe bench).

Cane was given the captaincy after suffering eight straight losses for the Chiefs. It’s not a good sign at all. You don’t want to bring that wasted energy into an All Black camp. If Cane couldn’t make it in the Super, it wasn’t his time. With a new coach, he will have the chance to be part of the All Black bench.

In the last game against the Boks, Cane completed four runs and gained a yard. 10 tackles including two missed. His finishing touch, a poor pass to the shoulder from Shannon Frizell led to the Boks try and created a record loss. He was lucky not to have received a yellow card for taking out the fullback in the air. Cleaned up because it was his own player, Jordie Barrett!

After three years, Foster has yet to decide who his top five will be. He’s like a kid with too many choices – he just wants them all, just like his three 7s – basically it won’t work. It’s very clear that Richie Mo’unga is the one. I think maybe Foster just figured it out. But please just make a choice and support it.

The midfield is still confused, as are the back three who could easily be rectified by placing the best players in their preferred positions. Jordie Barrett at age 12. Will Jordan at age 15. Rieko Ioane returns to the wing (not Ioane’s favorite but it should be).

The All Blacks have a lot of depth in certain positions. It’s very positive but it’s not if we distribute these players in positions that don’t have depth. The 7 should be sorted with Ardie Savea number one. Dalton Papalii number two. Sam Cane number three.

Alchemical shapeshifting is a fine art with players emerging better than before in a different position. We have great case studies here with Tana Umaga, Ma’a Nonu and then those like Ben Smith who can effortlessly mix between the two – wing and fullback. Foster has no control.

By the way, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is not up to the task at the moment and maybe needs a breath of fresh air at 13 in Super. He needs more space and space to move around. He needs conditions similar to what he had in the league. For the moment, it is contained and too predictable. I would like to see him play like he did in the NRL.

This is not the collapse of an empire over 100 years old. NZR picked a coach who I don’t think would even be in the top 20 New Zealand coaches;

1: Scott Robertson 2: Steve Hansen 3: Jamie Joseph 4: Robbie Deans 5: Joe Schmidt 6: Dave Rennie 7: Tony Brown 8: Leon Macdonald 9: John Mitchell 10: Graham Henry 11: Warren Gatland 12: Vern Cotter 13: Wayne Pivac 14: Kieran Crowley and eventually Foster would arrive somewhere around 22. Put on the All Blacks 22nd best five and see what happens? Having the 22nd best coach is much worse.

Foster was good and kind to the players when he was All Blacks assistant coach and that kindness has returned to him now. There is a return of this loyalty from the players. I think it brought the band closer to Foster. In this sense, if someone supported and helped you when you were depressed or just needed support, it is very natural to return that warmth to them. It’s a genuine thing to do and there’s respect there.

Coach Ian Foster attends a New Zealand All Blacks training session at Sky Stadium on July 26, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

I can understand why the All Black players backed Foster. They returned loyalty.

But I also know, and derail slightly here, in romantic partnerships, and I’ve seen it happen; two individuals can meet and one can tame the personality of the other where it merges and dulls into the other without being aware of it.

It happened to me once when I was younger. I was creative and free and a little different, she cared about image and status and she loved the spontaneity and idiosyncrasies I gave. We were opposites. But then she curbed it, she liked the rebel but just not after a few weeks and around her friends!

She wanted the perfect look, the perfect Sydneysider. I didn’t really know until it was all over and the wisest soul (think Oracle Matrix) I know said, “Your personality is just coming back. You have lost all your creative spark. That’s why you don’t have creative work. You didn’t wow them.

I lost the magic (and the job!). So I found! I found the truth, much more really… but we’re here to talk about rugby, huh! Which comes down to Foster; Dane Coles said last year “I can’t quite put my finger on it” about their form.

Brendon McCullum transformed the English cricket team immediately within a week. The risk taker, the believer and the innovator joined their group and made them believe, and be their true inner talent, their inner creator. He taught them to be in the moment free from expectations and pressure.

Have you ever noticed some times, whether it’s a test match in the rain or a T20 and a player has a free life almost just to hit and swing and destroy the attack without consequence? To some extent, I think McCullum installed that feeling. He also unraveled old beliefs and it gave them knowledge and freedom, while playing cricket and probably in their lives in general and they were the best versions of themselves. England beat New Zealand 3-0 and India in the next match.

It shows that this can change quickly and the influence an innovative leader can have.

I think Foster has integrated his laid-back nature into the All Blacks. Made them feel good and cool, brought them fools gold and they believed it. He’s dulled their shine and they haven’t quite figured it out yet. But their time has come to find their recognition and their power. Like the way I understood it, there will be a time when the truth will hit them and they will find understanding. In the moment, it can be difficult to understand what is happening sometimes when something dysfunctional happens. The truth to the individual is often revealed a little later.

The All Blacks were once all-powerful led by a manager who wasn’t even in New Zealand’s top 20 managers, and that’s what is happening. Foster should have remained an assistant. He’s just not strong enough for this All Black role.

NZR has to be smart and make the switch. Get the best of the best. Give him the opportunity to choose his team and be honored.

Razor is the man. But NZR bothered him when he could have had a clean slate and a four year cycle in 2019. So NZR has to scale, lose the ego and make it happen. Make it accommodating.

Dial forward and strike with a clean slate; and the dynasty, the magic machine with its ebbs and flows, arguably the greatest sports team ever on the planet, in any form, can rise up and shine again. Darkness will strike and return.

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