Robertson sidesteps All Blacks questions
SPOTLIGHT: Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has opted to stay clear of questions surrounding Ian Foster and the All Blacks in the wake of the team’s successive defeats over the past fortnight.
The All Blacks have been scrutinised after falling to back-to-back losses to Ireland and France on a tour of Europe for the first time since 1935/36 as they finished the year with 12 wins and three defeats, their worst return since 2009.
Of those tests, four stood out as major fixtures: the two Rugby Championship matches against the Springboks and the two end-of-year tests against Ireland and France.
The All Blacks won just one – the first against South Africa – of those four games, leaving Foster under immense pressure heading into the off-season.
Those results come after New Zealand Rugby [NZR] faced criticism for appointing Foster as All Blacks boss following the 2019 World Cup, mostly because the union backed him against Robertson, who was the only other candidate interviewed for the job.
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A highly-successful coach at various levels of the game, Robertson won eight provincial titles with Canterbury either as a head or assistant coach between 2008 and 2016, and guided the New Zealand U20 side to a world championship in 2015.
However, it’s been with the Crusaders where he has truly established himself as a world-class coach as he has created a dynasty at the franchise he took charge of in 2017.
By winning a title in every one of those years since, he has become the only coach in the history of Super Rugby to claim five successive titles, making him a fan favourite amongst the public to take the All Blacks head coach role.
NZR, though, quashed those hopes, for the time being, when it when it decided to re-sign Foster on a two-year contract extension in August in a deal that will see him through until the next World Cup.
That decision was made prior to the All Blacks’ tests against the Springboks, Ireland and France, and since those defeats, questions have again been raised as to whether NZR should persist with Foster or to give the reins to Robertson.
Despite the growing support for him, Robertson rebuffed questions about the recent performances of the All Blacks under the stewardship of Foster following the announcement of the Crusaders squad for next year’s Super Rugby Pacific.
“With the All Blacks stuff, I will leave my point of view private property. They are hurting at the moment, I have got my opinions on it, but it is probably not the right time to express them,” he told reporters on Monday.
When asked if he believed the All Blacks were heading in the right direction, Robertson refused to publicly air his view on the matter.
“Look, I observe like everyone else but I will hold my judgment on it.”
Robertson, who has a clause in his current three-year deal with NZR and the Crusaders that allows him to take the All Blacks job if it become available in 2024, had watched the All Blacks from afar, but noted that he mainly took interest in the performances of his Crusaders players.
Of those in the extended 40-man squad that recently completed its tour of Europe, 11 are part of Robertson’s Crusaders squad.
“You look at a bit of everything but mainly your own boys,” Robertson said.
“You have such a critical eye about how they play, their strengths, what is their trademark that they go to? You watch them and how they deliver. I don’t give too much feedback, they get plenty enough on tour.
“They will do their reviews in MIQ. We get handed those and then we will do our own one. What is required when they transition back into that period of time pre-Christmas and post-Christmas, so we get the best out of them.”