New Zealand Rugby has come out in defence of coach Ian Foster in the wake of the All Blacks’ successive defeats in their final two Tests of the season.
Foster has come in for heavy criticism following losses against Ireland and France, leaving the All Blacks with plenty of questions to ponder ahead of the 2022 season.
Despite winning 12 of 15 Tests in 2021, several of those victories were against tier-two nations or sides New Zealand were expected to beat comfortably.
When they came up against top-ranked opponents, such as South Africa, Ireland and France, they struggled to find fluency under pressure.
Many fans have called for Foster to be replaced but the NZR’s head of professional rugby has come out in support of the head coach.
“We’re incredibly appreciative of the efforts that our team has gone to,” Lendrum said. “It’s a tour like no other … long and arduous and there are learnings to be taken out of those weeks. But we support Foz [Foster] and the team and we are just looking forward to getting them home and getting into the work that we need to do so we can improve next year.”
Two reviews are scheduled to take place soon, one conducted by the team and the other by the governing body, which will be completed by the start of Super Rugby Pacific.
“We look to match those two [reviews] together. We focus on environment, performance and people and work through a review process where we essentially get a 360-degree review and 360-degree feedback on our key people,” Lendrum added.
Foster, meanwhile, believes there has been “significant growth” from their performances in 2020, despite their struggles in the latter part of 2021.
“When you look at the overall year and you look at what we have achieved I think, when you look at the context, that there has been quite a significant growth from last year,” he told reporters.
“I think if you look at this year, it is a year that some teams haven’t played many Test matches and the southern-hemisphere teams have played a lot of Test matches.
“We’ve played more than we’ve ever played. We’ve won 12 out of 15 – South Africa lost five Tests, Australia lost about seven Tests.
“I know that we get judged harshly, but if I reflect on the year, we’re making progress. We’ve got a good brace of players that we’re growing, but we’re also learning some tough lessons at the end of this long season.”