Irrespective how I word this, it will be interpreted incorrectly by some.
Being a strong advocate of Scott Robertson to replace Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach does not mean Ian Foster is not the right fit in my eyes.
But — there’s always a but — I can’t help feeling that the New Zealand Rugby hierarchy has missed a trick here.
Timing is everything, they say, and the timing for ‘Razor’ to assume the most prestigious post of his career was absolutely perfect.
He is a brilliant coach, a brilliant people person, and when Sam Whitelock returns from his gap year in Japan, he would have had a brilliant chemistry with his captain moving towards the next World Cup.
When I heard Razor hadn’t got the job, I started wondering where did he fall short? Of course, he didn’t fall short at all.
The NZRU clearly were looking for something different. Continuity? Experience? But what have they given up?
Razor’s vision for the All Blacks is something the players and the country will miss going forward.
I’d love to have seen his presentation, because rest assured, it would have been innovative and progressive and something the interview board would not have seen before. Perhaps too much so.
Maybe ‘falling short’ amounted to being too ‘out there’ for decision-makers in the NZRU, and I am only surmising here.
Rugby and society are changing so fast nowadays, it’s hard to keep up if you are in your twenties, never mind forty-something coaches like Razor and I. But he gets it.
He connects brilliantly with players 20 years younger than him. I believe that should be a pre-requisite for getting a job like this.
He just makes the game so enjoyable. Being in an All Black camp with Razor would have been a fun place to be.
Of course, there’s no reason to assume it won’t be like that under Ian Foster.
Those underwhelmed by his appointment point to the ‘sameness’ of the new set-up, but that does not take into consideration the player turnover in that time.
Foster is 54, he was clearly not ‘the people’s choice’, but that perception is very easily changed when you are racking up the W’s.
I worked closely with Scott Robertson for two years, so I am biased. It is argued that one of his main shortcomings is a lack of international test experience.
That’s an impossible argument to win either way but consider two things here — No 1, that is a stick used to beat a player, not a coach who has dominated the game in the southern hemisphere for three years.
And secondly, two thirds of the NZ team are his own Crusaders, many of them he has developed into All Black leaders.
Razor’s ability to get the best out of the remainder of the group when they pull on the black jersey is beyond dispute when you’ve seen him work at close quarters.
Where does he excel? His abilities in the area of people interaction and connection are off the charts. He stokes players’ passion, their identity, and their focus.
I saw all those things first hand in Christchurch and I think he would even ramp it up had he been the new All Blacks coach.
I do wonder was Razor even over the heads of some of the decision-makers in this process? I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, but he thinks fresh and he thinks different.
Maybe that scared some folk.
What is interesting is the two-year contract the NZRU has given Steve Hansen’s former assistant.
Given that is only halfway to the next World Cup, it looks like an extended probation period.
Meanwhile next door in Australia, Dave Rennie has been given the Wallaby gig all the way to France 2023 at least.
From a purely personal standpoint, the decision to appoint Foster and not Robertson removes any lingering sense of what might have been had I decided to remain with the Crusaders into a third season.
As a coaching group, we daydreamed about the possibilities had Razor been appointed to the All Blacks job.
It never got any further than that. We all move on. I’m good here in La Rochelle now.
Things are tough for sure, but now that it’s gone proper difficult, I’ll dig in even more now.
It’s the only way.