All Blacks boss Foster knows he must deliver on his plan

Foster is no stranger to the New Zealand set-up after eight years as an assistant to Hansen

Ben Coles

After a period of "either sulking or planning", the All Blacks are moving on, admits their new head coach, Ian Foster. There was no third World Cup crown in a row last year, after England produced the kind of physical performance in the semi-final that New Zealand rarely come across.

Foster was part of Steve Hansen's coaching staff that day in Yokohama and is now at the start of his own reign in charge. The pain of that defeat lingered for a while, but no more.

"We were a group where there wasn't a single player in our 31-man squad who had lost a game at a Rugby World Cup. So, Japan hurt," Foster admits. "It does not matter how well you prepare, it is what it is. You get reminded of it and you have two choices.

"Either sit back and think, 'Woe is us', or accept that's sport, we were beaten on the day and we have to be better. To be fair, we are just starting to get excited about a new challenge."

Fortunately, Foster is no stranger to the New Zealand set-up after eight years as an assistant to Hansen, a run that included an unbeaten calendar year in 2013 and the World Cup triumph in 2015.

However, his appointment was far from automatic. Foster faced fierce competition from Scott Robertson, fresh from guiding the Crusaders to their third straight Super Rugby title. Foster's pitch had to be good.

"I didn't go into it thinking I was competing with other people. I went into it being tough on myself. Did I have a plan for this group that I felt was going to be the right thing for the All Blacks?" Foster said. "I spent a lot of time planning that, worrying about that. But once I had it clear in my head, the process was simple, because all you have to do is go in and say, 'Here is my plan'. I am sure they were presented with other good plans, but they chose mine and I have to deliver."

Whether predecessor, Hansen, had an easier start following the 2011 World Cup win is debatable. Foster is well qualified. After close to 150 games for Waikato as a fly-half, he coached the Chiefs to two Super Rugby finals in a seven-year spell before joining Hansen's staff. His own group contains John Plumtree (forwards), a smart choice to go with Scott McLeod (defence) and Greg Feek (scrum).

The fact that New Zealand added Brad Mooar far later than usual should illustrate how highly Foster rates the Scarlets head coach's attacking philosophies. One of that contingent might end up in the head coach's office one day. It was only once Foster joined the All Blacks set-up eight years ago that the top job came on to his radar.

"I never had it written down on a bit of paper that I wanted to coach the All Blacks," he admits. "But I think once I was fortunate enough to get the [assistant] job, afterwards I felt I was almost accountable to the group to stand [for the head coaching role]. I felt a degree of responsibility, but also it is a massive privilege to do the job. Let's just go and have some fun with it."

In terms of personnel, Foster believes this is a better starting point for the All Blacks than post-2011 and post-2015, with more experienced players available. Consider some of the names who hung up their Test boots after winning the final at Twickenham five years ago: Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith. There are holes at lock and No 8, with Brodie Retallick on sabbatical and Kieran Read retired. But in New Zealand, as Foster notes, there is always someone.

Foster's contract runs only until the end of 2021, although, as he points out, two-year contracts have always been standard practice. Warren Gatland is back in New Zealand coaching the Chiefs, seemingly waiting in the shadows. Robertson too, plus the unattached Joe Schmidt. That pressure to deliver immediately, Foster believes, is something to embrace, rather than fear. (© Daily Telegraph, London)