New Zealand Rugby‘s chief has refused to say whether head coach Ian Foster would continue in his job with the All Blacks past two looming Tests in South Africa, heaping pressure back onto the beleaguered team leader.
Two of Foster’s assistants were fired last week, following NZ Rubgy’s review into a 2-1 defeat to Ireland, the All Blacks’ first series loss on home soil for 28 years.
Foster, however, managed to cling to his job.
On Saturday, NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said there would be sharp focus on the team’s performance in the opening Rugby Championship Tests against the world champion Springboks, but refused to say whether Foster would remain coach beyond that.
“I’m not going to get into speculating on things like that,” he told radio station Newstalk ZB.
Foster has a modest record in charge of the side, with 16 wins from 24 Tests, including four defeats from his last five.
NZ will play South Africa in Mbombela on August 6 and Johannesburg a week later.
“As we’ve signalled he’s certainly the person to lead the team to South Africa and we’re making sure that we’ve got everything possible in the way of resourcing and support to make sure that’s successful,” said Robinson.
Foster’s critics have said the jettisoning of assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar did not go far enough, after the Irish completely outplayed the All Blacks.
While Canterbury Crusaders forward coach Jason Ryan was added to the coaching staff, many pundits have called for successful Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson to take the top job.
In a podcast this week, six-time Super Rugby championship-winning coach Robertson sent a tremor through the national game by declaring he would be willing to coach overseas.
“When someone doesn’t give it to you, you have to think differently about what opportunities are out there,” he said.
The NZ Rugby chief said he had been in contact with Robertson but would not elaborate on the nature of their discussions.
“We certainly understand the sentiment of our fans that’s been coming through loud and clear,” Robinson said.
“We know Razor (Robertson) has a huge amount to offer the game in New Zealand in the future and we’ve obviously got a (domestic) contract with him around that. Commenting any further on that wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Foster’s predecessor as All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen, this week said too much blame for the team’s slumping fortunes had been laid at the feet of the coaching staff.
Hansen, who oversaw just ten losses during his 107-Test reign, said relations between the players and NZ Rugby executive had dived to “the worst it’s ever been”.