Ian Foster has signed a two-year contract extension as All Blacks head coach through to the 2023 World Cup, the Herald can reveal.
After much conjecture, the Herald understands New Zealand Rugby has moved to give Foster and his management team security as they prepare to lead the All Blacks for 14 weeks away from home.
Foster's assistants John Plumtree, Brad Mooar, Scott McLeod and Greg Feek are expected to re-sign alongside Foster in the coming weeks.
The longer Foster's contract situation dragged on this year, the more it had the potential to be a major distraction for the All Blacks.
Leaving a decision until after the All Blacks played the world champion Springboks, or even later this year, heaped additional pressure on the team and, in the event of a change, could have had significant ramifications on New Zealand's Super Rugby teams.
Successive victories at fortress Eden Park over the Wallabies earlier this month – the last the 57-22 rout to lock away the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th straight year - has been enough to convince New Zealand Rugby to re-sign Foster before the All Blacks depart for Australia this week.
In uncertain times, Foster now has certainty about his position after a tense standoff with the NZ Rugby board.
Foster stepped up from his eight-year tenure as assistant coach to assume the mantle from Steve Hansen following the All Blacks' 2019 World Cup semifinal defeat to England, winning promotion over highly successful Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who has now claimed five Super Rugby titles.
As All Blacks head coach, Foster has presided over a 73 per cent winning record - eight wins, two losses and one draw - in a condensed and challenging Covid-19 climate.
Last year the All Blacks played six tests, winning three. This year they won all five home tests against Tonga, Fiji and the Wallabies.
Foster's re-signing leaves Robertson waiting in the wings for at least the next two years after he recently signed a three-year extension with the Crusaders that comes with a clause enabling him to take the All Blacks job, should it become available.
After delaying their departure last weekend until the Rugby Championship destination was sorted, the All Blacks are expected to leave New Zealand this Thursday and fly to Perth for the third, rescheduled Bledisloe Cup test on September 3 or 4.
The All Blacks will then travel to Queensland for the remainder of the Rugby Championship, which includes two tests each against the Pumas and Springboks.
Unable to return to New Zealand until mid-November due to MIQ availability, the All Blacks will depart Australia to Washington DC for the first stop on their five-match end-of-year tour that also features tests in Cardiff, Paris, Dublin and Rome.
In a statement NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson welcomed Foster's reappointment.
"Ian has faced extraordinary times since he was first appointed, with the uncertainty of Covid-19 and the numerous challenges it has thrown up, and he's shown remarkable composure and resolve to lead incredibly well through it all," Robinson said.
"Foz has built an outstanding culture and environment in the team with an inclusive and collaborative approach and maintained a steady, clear focus on our goal of being No 1 in the world again.
"There is no doubt Foz and his team are performing extremely well in trying conditions and we are pleased to send a strong signal of support to create certainty in our environment and allow the management team and player group to plan for the future.
"On behalf of NZR and the Board, I want to congratulate Foz and his team and wish them all the best for the rest of this season and beyond."
Foster said: "Firstly, I want to acknowledge the board and NZR for the faith they have shown in reappointing me. It's a privilege to be part of the All Blacks and I don't take that for granted.
"It's clearly been a challenging couple of years with Covid-19, but I've been hugely proud of the resilience shown by the team. I'm personally driven to have our team continue to succeed as we build to Rugby World Cup 2023.
"What is equally important to me is the fact that I'm just one part of an outstanding coaching and management team and to continue working with them is a privilege and inspires me to be the best head coach I can be.
"We have the immediate challenge of this year's Rugby Championship and then the tour North, but 2022 and 2023 will bring their own challenges. I'm really excited to be leading the team into the future and can't wait to get stuck into our work."