Two coaches axed and a new one brought in at short notice ahead of what will be a challenging tour of South Africa – these are wild days for the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby. They may get wilder still if, as rumoured, Leon MacDonald is being targeted to join newcomer Jason Ryan.
The Blues head coach, who could be in line to replace Brad Mooar, and Ryan, the new All Blacks forwards coach after he replaced John Plumtree, would make a good team as the national side’s two main assistants.
Well, Scott Robertson certainly thought so. Yes, MacDonald and Ryan would have been on Robertson’s ticket as All Blacks head coach, but three years ago the interviewing panel, and by extension the NZ Rugby board, went for Ian Foster, Scott McLeod, Mooar and Plumtree instead.
To make things even stranger, it is rumoured that the panel, headed by former All Blacks head coach Graham Henry, a man who benefitted hugely from NZ Rugby’s continuation policy when keeping his job through to the 2011 World Cup, felt Robertson’s team wasn’t strong enough.
Remember too, that NZ Rugby bought out the remainder of Mooar’s contract with Welsh club Scarlets so he could join Foster in the first place. Now they have agreed to pay out the rest of his All Blacks contract, which, along with Plumtree’s, was due to expire at the end of next year. They have also had to pay out Ryan’s contract with Fiji.
Read more: Plumtree and Mooar axed as All Blacks ring coaching changes
Crazy days. The All Blacks haven't performed consistently well since before the 2019 World Cup but Foster, while under huge scrutiny, has so far survived in his role despite the losses piling up.
Mooar and Plumtree were announced as casualties on Sunday but there's another group that deserves to feel similar heat: those governing the game in New Zealand.
Not taking away from the ability of MacDonald, who coached the Blues to this year’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at Eden Park (where they were comprehensively outplayed by the visitors), or Ryan, who forged a near unbeatable alliance with Robertson over six years at the Crusaders.
But if the above scenario comes to pass (and Foster is currently fulfilling Mooar’s role as well as his own in “the short term”), then the following question must be asked of the NZ Rugby board: “What on earth is going on?”
The man famously known as Razor would be one of the last to stand in front of someone trying to better themselves – he’ll likely be pleased that Ryan’s talents and record are finally being noticed at the top level here (and, potentially MacDonald, with whom he coached at NZ Under-20 level) – but he will be as dumbstruck as anyone with how things are playing out on and off the field.
That's a lot of intellectual property he helped develop walking out the door, and he's entitled to feel hurt by that as much as anything - a bit like a kid who has had his homework stolen by a class rival.
The NZ Rugby board, by the way, had a golden opportunity to change things last year when the All Blacks’ coaches’ contracts expired, but instead opted to give them another two years. It would have saved them a lot of money at the very least.
Now they are left to consider a record of four All Black defeats in their last five Tests, a first ever series defeat to Ireland and the first back-to-back Test losses in New Zealand since 1998. They have also fallen to No.4 on World Rugby's rankings.
The heat will remain on Foster for as long as he remains in the job, but it's time those who run the game in New Zealand take some responsibility too and MacDonald joining the All Blacks should escalate matters because none of it makes sense at the moment.