‘I’d be a disaster’: Outgoing All Blacks coach clashes with successor as tensions build


Tensions between All Blacks coach Ian Foster and his successor Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson are growing after a clash of ideas surrounding national eligibility.

Robertson, who was controversially appointed ahead of this year’s World Cup, set the cat amongst the pigeons earlier in the week when he said he was open to picking players from overseas.

“We will have conversations, you have got to be a step ahead,” Robertson said.

“If you are a step behind and then changing rules, and that is when you get caught.

“I will present the board where I think the game is heading, potentially, but a lot of that will be happening when I get in the role.”

Newly announced All Blacks Coach Scott Robertson says he is open to picking players from overseas. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

South Africa opened the floodgates ahead of the 2019 World Cup and went on to claim a remarkable third Webb Ellis Cup.

Trans-Tasman neighbours Australia let the genie out of the bottle ahead of the 2015 campaign, as Michael Cheika convinced his bosses the necessity of having Toulon-based Matt Giteau play for the Wallabies. His teammate Drew Mitchell also was chosen.  

After carving up European rugby, both players excelled during the World Cup as the Wallabies went on to make the final.

Since then Rugby Australia has regularly tweaked their eligibility protocols and is thought Eddie Jones will have carte blanche for this year’s World Cup before the governing body attempts to drastically put the cap back on the bottle ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour and home World Cup.

RA has had to consider to key factors.

First, opening up the borders would potentially see more players leave its Super Rugby competition.

Second, the movement of players elsewhere could potentially affect cohesion levels.

Head coach Ian Foster of the All Blacks and Sam Cane of the All Blacks speak to the media after losing The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina Pumas at Orangetheory Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Outgoing All Blacks head coach Ian Foster says New Zealand Rugby should not pick players from overseas. Photo Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Speaking on radio on Saturday morning, Foster said in an ideal world the All Blacks would simply pick the best players but added it would undermine New Zealand Rugby.

“I think from an All Blacks’ perspective, if I just looked at it purely selfishly … it makes some academic sense,” Foster told Newstalk ZB.

“But I think from a NZ Rugby … as a whole, I think it’d be a disaster.

“We’ve got a Super Rugby competition which has fed our national team for many many years. I don’t think the Super Rugby competition is perfect at the moment, it needs a bit of work, but it is the development path, it’s where we actually develop our players, where we’re able to work with the franchises in that space, and I think we need to make sure we’re selling that product to the public and we’re growing our young players with our older players around them.

“The minute we open up the door, we know the worldwide demand for our players is huge and I think we’ll lose a lot of our top players and I think that’ll dilute our domestic competition too much,” Foster added.

“They need to stay here and play here.”

Richie Mo’unga of the All Blacks celebrates scoring a try during the 2020 Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup match

Richie Mo’unga’s departure to Japan has once again opened up discussions over All Blacks eligibility. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

Robertson faces a difficult rebuilding task in his first year in charge, with his key playmaker at the Crusaders, Richie Mo’unga, to head to Japan for three years.

Two-time World Rugby player of the year Beauden Barrett will also head to Japan following the World Cup in France.

While livewire utility back Damian McKenzie is uncontracted.

It could mean Robertson faces the uncomfortable task of having to blood a relatively inexperienced playmaker in 2024.

The clash of ideas comes after Foster strongly recommended NZR don’t appoint a new coach until after the World Cup to ensure there are no distractions. Instead, Robertson was appointed whilst Foster was overseas.

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