All Blacks coach Foster confident ahead of Argentina test
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Ian Foster says the “weight is off” the shoulders of the All Blacks as they head into a Rugby Championship test against Argentina on Saturday with him confirmed as head coach for another year.
The board of New Zealand Rugby last week gave Foster its full endorsement, confirming he will coach the team through next year’s World Cup in France. The decision was announced despite a run of two wins in seven tests for the All Blacks.
A win over the World Cup champion Springboks in Johannesburg and the support of his players likely saved Foster’s job.
Despite his confidence that the coaching issue is now behind the All Blacks, a loss to Argentina at Christchurch this weekend or at any stage of the Rugby Championship likely would revive the question of Foster’s future among fans.
Immediately after NZR’s expressed support for the head coach who has only a 65% win rate, an informal poll on a New Zealand media website showed 81% of respondents believed Foster should have been fired.
Foster said the match against Argentina’s Pumas, who are coming off a 48-17 win over Australia, is just “another test.”
“I’m not sure what we’re talking about with the weight off the shoulders,” he told reporters on Monday. “There’s always plenty of tenseness and pressure around playing for the All Blacks but it’s learning how to deal with that. It comes in different forms and shapes — sometimes it’s geared at people, sometimes it’s geared at performance.
“We know one win doesn’t mean a lot. We want to keep growing and climbing through this year.”
Foster said the two weeks the All Blacks spent in South Africa at the start of the Rugby Championship were “a noisy time” which also brought the squad together.
“We learnt a lot about ourselves,” he said. “We want to own our part and we know we wanted to get better. We saw a great desire to do that. This week we’ve got to make sure we continue against a very strong Argentinian team.”
Foster now will work in tandem with the New Zealand-born former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, who previously worked as a selector and analyst but now will take on a much larger, hands-on role.
The naming of the All Blacks lineup to take on Argentina might show Schmidt’s immediate impact. He may have had an influence on some of the changes which produced a winning performance in the second test against the Springboks, particularly the selection of Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf and of a new and young front row.
Foster said the win against South Africa will not be a “one-off.”
“Certainly there was some adversity we were going through. The fact we got a result was pleasing but when you pull the game apart there’s still areas we know we have to get better in,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of motivation to make sure we don’t rest on those laurels.”
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