Having enjoyed a week’s respite, Ian Foster’s worthiness as All Blacks coach is back under tense media and public scrutiny in New Zealand following their second Test loss to Ireland on Saturday.
Foster became the target of criticism in the rugby-mad country when its famed men’s team were outplayed by France and Ireland on last November’s season-ending tour of Europe.
Seven months of harsh analysis followed but much of the gloom appeared to lift a week ago when New Zealand powered to a 42-19 defeat of the Irish in the first Test of the series in Auckland.
However, Foster and his coaching staff have been painted as fall guys for the 23-12 drubbing in Dunedin as Ireland celebrated a first triumph against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.
Under the headline “It’s time for change”, New Zealand Herald rugby writer Gregor Paul said Ireland won far too easily against a home side who displayed “a list of faults that was long and comprehensive”.
“The All Blacks were passive and insipid, saved from humiliation only by their miraculous scrambling defence which was brilliant,” Paul wrote.
“But the All Blacks can’t survive in the rarefied air of Test rugby by spending most of the game on their own goal line and given their recidivist offending in the art of muscling up, it is now increasingly difficult to see how the coaching team can survive.”
Paul said it is clear the All Blacks have developed an untenable “hot and cold” pattern under Foster.
“Something needs to change in the set-up, a fresh voice or a new face to inject something new and radical to rejuvenate a side that has world class players… but a side that isn’t consistent enough or dynamic enough to instil confidence.”
TVNZ rugby writer Patrick McKendry predicted Foster would make changes for the series-deciding third Test in Wellington on Saturday, nominating Crusaders backs Will Jordan and David Havili as obvious starting contenders.
However, others have long believed it is the Crusaders’ ultra-successful head coach Scott Robertson who should make the step to the international level.
Foster’s contract was extended through to next year’s World Cup early last year and he has failed to shake off criticism on the way to overseeing 16 wins from 23 Tests, regarded as an unacceptable record in New Zealand.
Irish Examiner rugby writer John Fallon said a series triumph was now well within the tourists’ grasp.
“Certainly the aura of the All Blacks has been well and truly smashed now by Ireland. Four Irish wins in the last seven games against them can’t be ignored,” he wrote.
“But winning at the bottom of the world in a Dunedin venue where the All Blacks had never lost a Test game carries incalculable value.”
© Agence France-Presse