Departing All Blacks coach Ian Foster has revealed he was approached about coaching jobs on the eve of the Rugby World Cup but refused to discuss further so he could be fully focused on the side’s campaign.
Talking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Breakfast, Foster said he wants to continue coaching but said he hasn’t talked to anyone including Rugby Australia after the departure of Eddie Jones.
“I’m not saying anything about my future at the moment, but all I’d say is I haven’t spoken to anyone about anything and I’ve done that deliberately.
“I had a couple of options before the World Cup that I basically said, if you want to talk to me, you have to wait till after the World Cup.
“Because I don’t want this team or in fact, this country, thinking that I was busy trying to sort myself out before the biggest event.
“And for me, I wanted my team to know that I was 100 per cent focused on the team. I’d like to think that everyone saw that and now I’ll take my time and figure out what’s next. The timing is not perfect because a lot of jobs have all gone, but that’s okay. I was willing to take that risk.”
Foster joined the All Blacks as an assistant coach in 2012 and was part of the coaching staff when the side won the World Cup title in 2015. He took the reins from Steve Hansen following the 2019 World Cup. Under Foster, the All Blacks won four Rugby Championship titles and retained both the Freedom Cup and Bledisloe Cup. He has the third most wins as an All Black coach (32 from 46 tests).
Foster was asked whether he wanted to continue coaching at the highest level.
“Well, I think that’s one of the options. You consider two things. You got the club stuff in Europe. You’ve got Japan, and then there’s the international game.
“But it’s immensely difficult to talk about trying to coach another country when you’ve just had 12 years with the best team in the world and who’s so close to my heart and quite frankly I just need to breathe a little bit before I go down that path,” he revealed.
‘At peace’ with coaching era
Hosking asked Foster whether he was at peace with his time as All Blacks coach.
“I think I am, but I’m still going over everything.
“We went into a World Cup that everyone thought, we all knew, was going to be probably one of the toughest ever and nearly nailed it.
“So, I’m at peace that we did everything we could, that we gave it everything we got, but still there’s always a massive disappointment we couldn’t get across the line.
‘Niggly relationship between the players and the board’
“It’s been interesting four years,” he added.
“It started with the board and players fighting at each other over Silver Lake, and that took about 12 months to get resolved. It set a sort of a platform of a niggly relationship between the players and the board, which wasn’t actually anything to do with me. But that was the paradigm that we came into.
“We then went through Covid and the way we structured our seasons became very different. For example, I think we only played South Africa once in New Zealand in the four years.
“But everything settled down and I feel we got ourselves into a really good position going into that World Cup and ultimately that was the goal. I’m pretty proud of the effort that my coaching group, my management team put through and knowing that things were over at the end of the campaign, but we were able to keep our focus singular on what we needed to do.
“And for that, I’m really proud of that group.”
On public pressure
Foster had a shaky start in the role following defeats to Australia and a first-ever loss to Argentina during the Covid-affected Rugby Championship tournament in 2020.
In 2022 the All Blacks lost a home series to Ireland and then suffered a heavy defeat to South Africa which put pressure on Foster’s role, before the side claimed a famous win at Ellis Park.
“When I got the job, it always seemed to be under a condition, didn’t it? It was the two-year contract. They had another candidate that half the people wanted, and from then on it was the leaves that they looked at everything that we did.
“And so once people fix their minds on an opinion, it’s very hard to move them and to be fair, I’m relaxed with that.
“I’d like to think that now they realise that I lead a group that was highly motivated that could really produce a team that can win a World Cup. And the support that I’ve had has been phenomenal.”
In March, New Zealand Rugby made the call to replace Foster with Scott Robertson with the Crusaders coach taking over from next season.
A month earlier Foster told Newstalk ZB that New Zealand’s Rugby decision to announce the next All Blacks coach before the World Cup became a distraction for the team.
Foster wouldn’t weigh into whether he’d have applied for the job today if the selection process for the next coach was delayed until after the World Cup.
“Oh, I’m not even gonna talk about that. I do know that the number one thing you want on this job is because of the pressure you put under,” he told Mike Hosking.
“And I think particularly with the pressure that in the circumstances and Covid and changes and in Super Rugby being changed and all those little variables means that as an All Black coach, the one thing that you got to have confidence from your board, your CEO and all that sort of stuff.
“And so I think that would have been the first thing that I would have sought to clarify before I put my name in the hat again.
“I wouldn’t have said there was a lack of trust.
“I just think when you’ve got a plan B in your pocket, sometimes you don’t back, plan A as much as you could.”