New Zealand Rugby (NZR) must be careful before deciding when they will announce whether they will retain Ian Foster’s services or opt to replace him after the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
That was the word from Foster’s predecessor Steve Hansen, who wants the governing body to delay the announcement until after the global showpiece as he feels it could risk jeopardising the side’s World Cup campaign.
Scott Robertson favourite for the job
Foster’s current contract with the NZR expires after the World Cup and he could apply to retain his job but a run of poor results from the All Blacks earlier this year means Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson is the favourite to take over the coaching reins of the three-time world champions.
Hansen, who coached the All Blacks from 2012 to 2019, and won the 2015 Rugby World Cup, said NZR are in a difficult position as they know that they could lose their preferred candidate if they wait too long to make the announcement but may also alienate Foster by revealing their decision before the end of his contract.
“I think they [NZ Rugby] have to be really aware of the effect of naming a new coach before a World Cup,” Hansen told Stuff.
“You don’t need the distraction. You don’t want someone distracting, because he’s – if they appoint a new coach – all excited and starts having conversations that aren’t necessarily until after the World Cup.
“And the ironic thing is that if they win the World Cup, what do they do with Ian Foster if they have already appointed someone [else]? So they are in between a rock and a hard place.”
The current situation is very different from 2019 when Hansen made it clear that he would be stepping down. That created a two-way race between Foster and Robertson to replace him but this time NZR risk losing talented coaches if it takes too long with the appointment procedure.
Robertson’s services, in particular, will be in hot demand. He has already indicated that he hasn’t discounted coaching another country, and wealthy overseas clubs will be eager to obtain his services.
Hansen said NZR must figure out a way to deal with this conundrum and not alienate Foster with the outcome.
“They are just going to have to work their way through it, and probably the guy they have to probably work with, most of all, is the incumbent All Blacks coach Ian Foster and see what he is happy with,” he said.
Traditionally NZR would reveal its head coach after the World Cup, or they would already have one in place. Hansen is a good example of that as he had already negotiated a contract extension before the 2015 World Cup.
However, the governing body realises it may need to be more flexible in the current scenario and its chief executive Mark Robinson has said the organisation was open to the idea of making the announcement earlier.
But Hansen feels that could be disruptive to the All Blacks in their build-up to the World Cup.
“I think if you are going to name a new coach before the World Cup’s over, then you have got people looking at who is the boss, and looking at two different people,” he explained.
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Don’t want to lose people
“That is a possible derailer; and you don’t want that. Then there is the other side of it, we don’t want to lose people. Look, I think they [NZ Rugby] need to sit down and if they make a decision to do it [appoint the next coach before the World Cup], they would have to put some boundaries around what the incumbent coach could and couldn’t do.
“Basically I think he should be told, and then leave it at that until such time as the World Cup is over, and then announce it.”