Gregor Paul in Paris
There will, or so it appears, be a second coming of Ian Foster, who has said that however hard and alien the concept may feel right now, he’s open to coaching another international side.
He’s also equally receptive to the idea of continuing to partner with Joe Schmidt, and the prospect of a Razor-Fozzie showdown at the next World Cup is significantly more likely than perhaps anyone quite realises.
Foster is in the job market and those who need to know that have known that for the past six months, and they have also been made aware that, unlike his immediate predecessors, he’s not self-embargoing himself from ever coaching against the All Blacks.
Offers have come in, and when he gets home later this week, he’s hopeful a few more will come and, once he’s got his infamous lawns under control, he’ll start to consider what might be next.
And it’s a further sign of his human qualities and devotion to the job he held as head coach of the All Blacks that he’s only attending to his future now that the World Cup is over and he’s unemployed.
“I was asked a few questions [before the final] about what I was going to do and I said I was going to mow the lawns and carry on coaching when I find the right thing,” Foster said the morning after the final as he fronted the media for the last time as head coach of the All Blacks.
“I am not trying to convince you of motives here. I disagreed with how this year went and I said that publicly. I disagreed with some decisions that New Zealand Rugby made on the basis of what I felt was in the best interest of this team.
“It wasn’t based on my desire to coach beyond this World Cup. It was based on what was right for the team and I stand by that and when my players are asking me to tell them now what I have planned, this is what I said: when I made that decision and spoke out, I also made a decision to refuse to talk to anyone about my plans and so every time I was offered an opportunity for after the World Cup, I said I wasn’t interested in talking about it until after the World Cup.
“I felt the team deserved to have an All Blacks coach that they knew was 100 per cent committed to this team, not any other team. So that is what I did.
“There are no secret plans and maybe it is just my stubborn pride that I felt the right for the team was every time they looked at me, I didn’t want them reading that I was talking to someone else or looking at something else because I don’t think that is conducive to a team environment.”
This wasn’t meant to be a veiled dig at Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who was reportedly in discussions with Japan before the World Cup about taking over there after the tournament.
But barely an hour before Foster spoke, news broke that Jones was resigning as head coach of the Wallabies, and given how few big jobs there are in the international game and how infrequently they come up, what chance of seeing Foster jump across the Tasman to breathe some much-needed life back into the Bledisloe Cup next year?
“I am not going to get caught up in that saga,” he said. “I made a decision to not talk to another international team for that very reason because I don’t think it looks good.”
But he’s free to talk now and there will almost certainly be strong interest, because, despite the relatively dim view many Kiwis seem to hold about Foster’s tenure, the rest of the world will inevitably be interested in a former All Blacks coach who took his team to a World Cup final and whose overall record may not stand comparison with his predecessors, but does compare well with that of Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.
Foster signs off in the role with a 71 per cent win ratio, which is exactly what Nienaber achieved in this World Cup cycle.
Just like Foster’s All Blacks, the Springboks lost end-of-year tests to Ireland and France in successive weeks, they also lost to England and twice to Australia, who were to South Africa what Argentina were to the All Blacks.
Rugby Championship games between the Boks and All Blacks were split three wins each during the cycle, but of course, what elevates Nienaber is that the Springboks were on the right side of the 12-11 scoreline in the World Cup final.
But here the Springboks are being hailed one of the greatest teams the world has ever known, and it is worth asking whether that same status would have been afforded Foster’s All Blacks had Jordie Barrett’s late penalty gone over on Saturday night, as all that separated them over the course of the cycle was one missed goal kick.
The thought of being able to snap up Foster, especially if he comes in tandem with Schmidt, would appeal to a number of international teams.
That much New Zealanders should accept and brace themselves to see Foster and Schmidt pop up again sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Gregor Paul is one of New Zealand’s most respected rugby writers and columnists. He has won multiple awards for journalism and has written several books about sport.