With his immediate future secure, Ian Foster plans to use the vote of confidence his two-year contract extension affords to prove the best is yet to come from his All Blacks tenure.
Foster's reappointment on Tuesday through to the 2023 World Cup allows him to lead the All Blacks on their near four-month journey without the sense of looking over his shoulder.
Challenges will be ever-present as the All Blacks embark on Thursday, minus three influential figures in Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga, for the third Bledisloe Cup test in Perth, followed by the Rugby Championship in Queensland and onto a testing end of year tour.
It's a 10-test journey that will demand juggling a multitude of complexities amid the global pandemic – the most pertinent of which being unable to return home until mid-November due to MIQ availability.
In the backdrop of the All Blacks securing the Bledisloe Cup with a record 57-22 victory at Eden Park, NZ Rugby clearly felt it was not fair to leave the dark cloud of uncertainty hovering over Foster's future and the team.
NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson detailed how feedback from players and improved team performances against the Wallabies led to a unanimous decision from the previously hesitant board last Wednesday night to retain faith in Foster and his extended management group.
"We were working towards being able to bring something to the board through August. Because of the changing dynamic it made sense to have this done sooner rather than later," Robinson said.
"The timing felt right with the combination of the uncertainty ahead combined with what we've seen and the feedback from the group. That gave us a good foundation to make the decision and move forward."
Waiting until the All Blacks face the world champion Springboks later next month was considered, but NZ Rugby decided it was more important to empower the team and its leaders at this juncture.
"We think the way the group is travelling we're well placed to take on those teams later in the year," Robinson said.
"If you wait indefinitely until the end of the year that does develop a range of uncertainties that can potentially manifest in different ways and we didn't think that was the right approach."
Assessing Foster's record in isolation is difficult. In black and white terms he has a 73 per cent win ledger – 8 victories, 1 draw, 2 defeats since assuming the top job from Steve Hansen last year. Many believe that is not good enough for the All Blacks, and therefore favour Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who has captured five Super Rugby titles.
There is little doubt, however, Foster has confronted a test rugby landscape not seen before. From ever-changing schedules to travel restrictions and quarantine, his job encompasses tackling an enormity of diverse issues.
NZ Rugby took that climate into account when considering whether Foster is the right man to lead the All Blacks for the next two years.
"We've been very fortunate to have someone like Ian here in a time like Covid," Robinson said. "People will form views on the rugby side and what they see on the park. To have someone with that level of composure, clam and caring nature working behind the scenes to help pull together our environment at key times has been really beneficial. That's probably something the public don't really appreciate."
For Foster, reappointment will be a momentary weight lifted; a sense of relief in some respects that he now has the backing of his bosses after recent standoffs with the board behind the scenes.
Pressure to perform every week with the All Blacks is inescapable, though. From that perspective, little changes around expectations as Foster attempts to navigate the All Blaks back to No 1 in the coming months.
"I don't think anyone has got the right to deserve the job," Foster said. "Just because someone wants to be All Blacks head coach doesn't mean you deserve the opportunity. A lot of coaching is about having the right skill set at the right time. I believe I am the right person.
"Any time you get this opportunity it's pretty special. It's certainly a vote of confidence but a continuation of a lot of work we need to keep putting in for what we want to achieve in the next two years.
"We can now plan with confidence. Looking at this trip coming up it's going to be a massively unique time for the All Blacks and we're going to require a whole lot of compromise from a whole lot of people."
Despite the challenges, Foster believes the All Blacks squad is a tighter unit for having to work through constant change. Finding solutions forced coaches and players to engage more regularly, and Foster believes that is beginning to be reflected on the field.
"I feel like there's a group building here. It's clear to us it's not the finished product yet but that's okay. The leadership structure and culture within the team is strong.
"I can't wait to test ourselves against a variety of opposition, especially the Springboks and then hopefully the Northern Hemisphere teams. That's the bit that's missing for us at the moment but we can only play the opposition we get."