All Blacks semifinal loss raises coaching questions
The biggest loser from New Zealand's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to England on Saturday may be All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster.
Steve Hansen, who has been head coach for eight years and is standing down after next weekend's bronze medal playoff, has repeatedly backed Foster, his long-time lieutenant, as his successor.
But Foster will have to bear his share of the blame for what many New Zealanders see as a failed World Cup campaign as the All Blacks fell short of winning the tournament for the third consecutive time.
The feedback since Saturday's 19-7 loss in Yokohama — one newspaper headlined it Yoko, Oh No! — has been that Kiwis would like to see a new coaching team installed to take forward a younger All Blacks team.
Hansen has been a member of the All lacks coaching staff since 2004, head coach since 2011, and Foster has been an assistant since 2012. After a comprehensive quarterfinal defeat many All Blacks fans see the need for an entirely new coaching partnership with fresh ideas.
Who that person will be is unclear: Hansen gave New Zealand Rugby plenty of notice of his departure and it is likely well-advanced in its hunt for a successor.
Aside from Foster the leading candidates appear to include current Wales coach Warren Gatland, who will return to New Zealand after the World Cup to coach Super Rugby's Chiefs, and Jamie Joseph, who remains coy on whether he will continue in his current role as Japan head coach. After Japan's successful World Cup he is likely to be offered many inducements to stay.
Former All Black Scott Robertson, who has coached the Crusaders to the Super Rugby title in each of the last three seasons, has indicated his interest in the role. But there is likely to be opposition to Robertson taking over from Hansen, who is also a former Crusaders coach, with the Christchurch-based team seen as exerting too much influence over All Blacks selections.
Hansen had been tight-lipped over his plans after leaving the All Blacks but England coach Eddie Jones, his close friend, let the cat out of the bag at his post-match news conference on Saturday.
Describing Hansen as a "great coach," Jones said "I am sure there are going to be opportunities for him. I know he is coming back here (Japan) and coaching at Toyota. And I am sure he is going to get involved in helping World Rugby.
"He is a great rugby man. A great rugby man."
Saturday's loss will make Hansen's legacy slightly more equivocal than it might have been had he led the All Blacks to a third consecutive world title.
He will leave with a truly extraordinary winning percentage, currently almost 90 percent over 105 tests. But Saturday's defeat was far more comprehensive than the 19-7 scoreline suggests and likely will be remembered as one of the worst the All Blacks have suffered at a World Cup.
A debriefing, which will inevitably follow the All Blacks' return from Japan, might examine whether the All Blacks' mental preparation for Saturday's match was adequate and whether selection gambles were justified.
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