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New Zealand Rugby Media Is In Meltdown Ahead Of Third Ireland Test

New Zealand Rugby Media Is In Meltdown Ahead Of Third Ireland Test
By Donny Mahoney Updated

It's four days now since Ireland leveled the All Blacks in Dunedin. It was a historic evening for Ireland, but it is the New Zealand public who refuse to move on from the result.

The defeat has inspired a week of tortured soul-searching in the New Zealand rugby media.

Lying before them is the ignoble vista of losing a series to Ireland on home soil. Beyond that looms two unenviable Tests in South Africa for the All Blacks.

And so Saturday's game in Wellington has taken on an existential gravity as the ructions continue in the Kiwi media.

In the New Zealand Herald, esteemed rugby scribe Gregor Paul has today called for New Zealand Rugby to 'formally consider their coaching set-up through to the World Cup'. Paul then makes a compelling case for Forster to be sacked.

We have reached the point where to do nothing is now a greater risk than to change as there is a case to be made that core technical failings such as inaccurate cleanout work at the breakdown, passive ball, carrying and predictable running lines on the ruck are happening so often as to be considered habitual.

This would be such an extreme decision for cocksure rugby nation 14 months out from a World Cup, but needs must. Paul - like most New Zealand rugby watchers - seems obsessed by the fork-in-the-road moment when New Zealand opted to employ Foster instead of breakdancing's Scott Robertson as the successor to Steve Hansen. Saturday's 'Disaster In Dunedin' was not a one-off in his reckoning, but rather a culmination of a calamitous coaching reign.

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Any hint of All Blacks fragility in the next three weeks and the board will have no choice but to ask whether that one specific problem can only be fixed with one specific change in personnel.

'Pathetic' All Blacks

Scroll through the Herald's paywalled section and you'll see no shortage of hyperbole. On Tuesday, writer Chris Rattue calls Foster's appointment 'one of the greatest bungles in NZ Rugby history' and Saturday's defeat 'pathetic'. Rattue writes:

There were so many amazing coaching possibilities for the All Blacks to consider. New Zealand has produced many of the best coaches in the world game. Scott Robertson, Jamie Joseph/Tony Brown, Dave Rennie, Joe Schmidt et al.

New Zealand Rugby fell prey to lazy and uninspired thinking and even tried to offload the responsibility by using an ad hoc committee to come up with ... drum roll Ian Foster.

Whether the All Blacks win the World Cup or not, they have got this coaching decision horribly wrong. They have not given themselves the very best chance of regaining the cup. Under Foster, erratic playing standards have seen results tumble to historic lows. The All Blacks are playing on a mishmash of hope and tired game plans. But NZ Rugby won't make the desperately needed coaching change before the World Cup.

Broadcaster Phil Gifford meanwhile labels the game as "the worst All Black test ever." (He had said the same about the All Blacks win over Italy in November)

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It's just the Herald who have been critical of Foster this week.  Legendary All Blacks captain Buck Shelford was not exactly complimentary of the current coach when speaking to Stuff.

It is a hell of a job but he put his name forward for it.

One of the things I thought when Mr Foster got the job was 'what are we going to see that we haven't seen before?'

And, to me, not a lot has changed.

Saturday's defeat meant the All Blacks have fallen to their joint-lowest place in the  history of the World Rugby rankings. New Zealand are still eight-point favourites for Saturday's game, and when you factor in the extreme pressure they are under, the rub of the green they are gifted by all referees, and the returning players who'll be starting on Saturday, a win for New Zealand is the most likely outcome.  However Andy Farrell's men find themselves in a barely-believable position ahead of their team announcement tonight. After lost the first Test 42-19, they are in bonus territory in a rugby-mad country that's turning on the coaches of its national team.

If Ireland make another brilliant start Saturday, the jitters will be real and they will be loud.

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