Written by Max Sharp.
As my long-time followers know, I began The Black Jersey in 2019, shortly ahead of that year's Rugby World Cup, hosted by Japan. Though I've changed names a few times, starting as @officialallblackfans and then moving over to @theallblackfanpage, I finally settled on "The Black Jersey" during the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season. Perhaps I've been inconsistent with a moniker to promote rugby, but there's one thing I have always publicly been consistent with. My opinion on Ian Foster's ability, as a Head Coach.
Though the rot the All Blacks are currently experiencing, began under Steve Hansen (coach from 2012-2019), as he presided over a first-ever loss to Ireland and a drawn British and Irish Lions series, Foster has not done anything to improve the situation.
I predicted the England defeat of 2019 on the very day the draw was made, a red card during the 2017 Lions series and finally, the All Blacks becoming a worse team with Foster in charge. Though I sounded off the alarm bells in my early Instagram days with hashtags such as #AnyoneButFoster, I now believe that I went as far as giving Foster too much credit before he took the job. Things are even worse than I thought they would be.
To find out how Foster has dug himself into the hole that could see him removed from his job, we'll do a deep dive into all of his achievements, positive and negative, with the three teams he has been the Head Coach for.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster, centre, reaches out for a microphone at Eden Park, following the All Blacks' defeat of Ireland. Photo: Max Sharp.
Waikato (2002 - 2003)
After playing a record 148 games for Waikato, as a first-five, Foster became their Head Coach for the 2002 NPC, aged just 37. This was four years after Foster's retirement as a player for the team.
Despite finishing the round-robin atop the table, Waikato went on to lose the 2002 Final to Auckland by a 12-point margin of 28-40, ending the year only as Runners-Up. Waikato made the playoffs for a second year in a row, in 2003, getting a semi-final match that was played at home. This ended in a single-point defeat margin, with Wellington victorious.
Canterbury held the Ranfurly Shield for the entirety of Foster's spell at Waikato, defending the Log O' Wood 23 times.
Chiefs (2004 - 2011)
Foster had far more experience as a Super Rugby Coach than Scott Robertson, the NZRU's other candidate for All Blacks coach in 2019. Promoted straight from Waikato and to the Chiefs, Foster held his post with the team for seven Super Rugby seasons.
His win ratio was rather average, with 53 wins, 48 losses and 5 draws, the win percentage of the Chiefs under Foster was therefore 50%. Across this era, the Chiefs failed to win any trophies, making the playoffs in just two seasons, 2004 and 2009. A reputation of mediocrity went to Foster's side, while their round-robin placings in each season went as following:
2003 - 10th place (out of 12)
2004 - 4th place (out of 12)
2005 - 6th place (out of 12)
2006 - 7th place (out of 14)
2007 - 6th place (out of 14)
2008 - 7th place (out of 14)
2009 - 2nd place (out of 14)
2010 - 10th place (out of 14)
2011 - 10th place (out of 15)
Though some will point to the success of 2009, it ended in nothing short of catastrophe. The Final, held in Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, saw the Bulls crowned as champions after both a record winning margin and a record score, against Foster's Chiefs, who imploded as they lost by 17-61.
This record loss is also in spite of Foster selecting a star-studded lineup with Mils Muliaina as captain, whilst Sona Taumalolo, Liam Messam, Sione Lauaki, Stephen Donald, Richard Kahui and Mike Delany were spread across the match-day 22.
All Blacks (2020 - present)
Despite having never won a trophy as a Head Coach beforehand, Foster was handed the job as our national Head Coach by the NZRU, while former All Black #996 Mark Robinson, a centre in his playing days, was appointed to be the NZRU's Chief Executive.
Unbelievably, some people in the public bought into the idea that Foster would continue to bring the All Blacks success. Though Steve Hansen was able to win 46 trophies including a Webb Ellis Cup and World Rugby Coach of the Year, with Foster as an assistant, some fail to observe that Hansen had inherited a massive amount of talent, such as Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Richie McCaw, Aaron Cruden and Sam Whitelock, from Graham Henry. Wayne Smith was also Hansen's Defence Coach until 2017.
Talking points from the pro-Foster brigade included his friendliness towards players and trophies won as an Assistant Coach, while he was a far more experienced coach than Scott Robertson, who had only been in charge of a Super Rugby club for three seasons.
But now, in Foster's third season in charge, the public have had enough.
I have nothing bad to say about Foster's character, from all accounts I've heard, Foster comes across as a thoughtful man you'd be happy to share a beer with. But for all the flaws that came with Steve Hansen's condescending treatment of players in Amazon's 2017 documentary, named "All Blacks: All or Nothing", at least he came across as a figure of authority.
The fact that Foster is such a nice man, forces me to suspect his reviews of matches are not thorough enough. It is quite clear to many experts and analysts that the All Blacks under Foster do not perform research on their opponents' tactics, as explained in the following YouTube videos.
All Blacks' 2021 End-of-Year Review (Part 1 - Coaches).
This video I uploaded in late 2021 went over all of the match statistics (against Tier 1 nations) for the team across the entirety of 2021 and how this reflects on the coaches' game plans. Deficient ruck win percentage and set-piece stats almost always coincided with losses in 2021, while this trend has continued into 2022.
An analysis video of the All Blacks and Ireland's tactics ahead of their 2022 series.
This video was uploaded following the squads being named and it was used to look at stats and match-day footage, to review what tactics could determine the series winner. Ireland went on to use almost all of the tactics mentioned in this video, especially their decoy runners, while Foster's All Blacks appeared oblivious to what they were up against, while on the pitch. Ireland deservedly won the series as they knew what to expect from the All Blacks.
Rugby Analyst and Hakatime Rugby's Rugby Ramble Podcast - All Blacks Autopsy.
Hakatime Rugby invited me on a podcast hosted by he and Rugby Analyst on YouTube. Plenty of errors were discussed on the podcast, from discipline, to kicking, to the attack.
An analysis of how Ireland won the series against the All Blacks. Photo: Max Sharp.
Finally, this video looks over the difference between the All Blacks and Ireland throughout the series. Foster's achievements as the All Blacks Coach are now as follows:
64% win ratio (16 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw)
The Rugby Championship (2020, 2021)
Bledisloe Cup (2020, 2021)
Freedom Cup (2021)
#1 Ranked World Team (Joint-Record High)
#4 Ranked World Team (Record Low)
#5 Ranked World Team (Record Low)
Worst All Blacks Head Coach win ratio since Eric Watson (55.6% from 1979-1980)
0% win ratio at Sky Stadium, Wellington
First All Blacks loss at Forsyth Barr Stadium
First All Blacks loss to Argentina
First All Blacks loss to France since 2009
First All Blacks home loss to Ireland
First All Blacks 3-test series loss (professional era)
However, a 64% win rate is not the problem, Warren Gatland for example has won the most trophies of any former All Black who became a coach, yet was very successful in a 55% win rate tenure with Wales. It is the mannerisms of our losses that the problem lies.
If the All Blacks were steadily improving, with new tactics and players being looked at throughout the World Cup cycle, while we were suffering small defeat margins which were tight contests with entertainment from both teams, I'd be fine with that. Scottish rugby for example, has always been entertaining to watch as they are backed by passionate fans at the same time. People continue to enjoy playing the "brave losers" as their spirit entertains despite the result.
Fans leave in droves after Ireland defeat the All Blacks at Sky Stadium, Wellington. Photo: Max Sharp.
Foster however, continues to break the records in all of the wrong ways. The All Blacks are now being outplayed, out-thought and out-coached week-in-week out and for the first time in my 22 years on this planet, I now go into games expecting defeat. The 10-26 loss to South Africa, tied as our fifth-largest losing margin, was a match I didn't even bother watching due to personal commitments planned before the match date was named.
With the worst winning margin for an All Blacks coach for 20+ tests, it is now safe to say that Foster has done the most damage to the black jersey, of any coach in history. I know I'm certainly not the only die-hard fan who didn't watch the pathetic defeat to South Africa. What stings even more? We still have the BEST talent pool in the world.
While I will be available to watch the second round of the 2022 Rugby Championship, I hope I wake up at 3:00am NZ time, to see the Springboks dish us our largest-ever losing margin, just as we did to them in 2017. I'd take Allister Coetzee over Ian Foster as a coach in a heartbeat and while I have nothing bad to say of Foster as a person, I would say this to his face.
If this article results in the 60+ professional players who follow me on Instagram, losing respect for me, then so be it. With the rapid growth of basketball and rugby league, we must take any action necessary, to remove Ian Foster as the All Blacks coach, for our game's survival. Even if it means supporting the Springboks in this week's clash.