Chances of New All Blacks coach, Scott Robertson, picking up the phone to his former Crusaders assistant Ronan O'Gara about a possible return to New Zealand? High.
Prospects of the La Rochelle head coach heading back down under for a second stint? Low.
Robertson was Tuesday named as Ian Foster’s successor as New Zealand head coach, with the 48-year-old to take charge of the squad after the Rugby World Cup later this year. The Crusaders coach has signed a four-year contract that will run from the start of 2024 and take him through to the end of the 2027 World Cup.
He will begin the process - if he hasn't already - of putting a coaching ticket together, and O'Gara's number will be one of the first he dials. The pair enjoyed a very productive yang-and-yang relationship with the Crusaders as they continued their domination of Super Rugby in 2019 and 2020. They teamed up again last autumn in London as the Barbarians coaching team for the clash against an All Black XV at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
However, the sense is that, with a new three-year contract signed, O'Gara's medium-term future remains on France's Atlantic coast.
Added Razor: “It’s a job that comes with a huge amount of responsibility, but I’m excited by the opportunity to make a contribution to the legacy of the black jersey. To represent your country, as a coach or player, is the ultimate honour in sport and it’s humbling to be given that opportunity. I can’t wait.”
Robertson has been vying for the role with Japan head coach Jamie Joseph following what RNZ described as a “robust interview process”. His appointment was confirmed at an NZR board meeting on Tuesday morning.
“His coaching record speaks for itself in terms of success,” NZR chief executive, Mark Robinson, said. “But what came through strongly during the interview process was his innovative approach to the game, his passion for his players, and his desire to add to the All Blacks legacy. We firmly believe he is the right person to lead the team in 2024 and beyond.”
Robertson lost out to Foster for New Zealand rugby’s top job after Steve Hansen stood down following the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Foster, who will remain in his post for this year’s World Cup, said earlier this month that he would not re-apply for the job, after NZR announced it was commencing a search for a new coach before his contract expired at conclusion of the tournament in France.
“We congratulate Scott on his appointment and look forward to working together in 2024, but have also been clear that New Zealand Rugby’s full support this year will be focused on the current All Blacks coaching team as we look toward the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France,” NZR chair Dame Patsy Reddy said.
Robertson, who played 23 Tests for the All Blacks, has impressed since ending his playing days and moving into coaching. He rose from an assistant position at Canterbury to the head coach role in 2013, and went on to win three Premiership titles between 2013 and 2016. Since 2017, he has overseen six consecutive Super Rugby championships.
“Having significant time to plan for 2024 and beyond is crucial to setting the All Blacks up for success during the next World Cup cycle,” Robertson said. “I have a job to do with the Crusaders and that will be my main focus through to the completion of Super Rugby, but I will now have the opportunity to work with NZR to get some key appointments in my coaching and management team finalised, so we can hit the ground running next year.”
The All Blacks begin their Rugby World Cup campaign on 8 September against France, before other Pool A games against Namibia, Italy and Uruguay.