The mighty All Blacks fall.  Can they rule world rugby again?

The mighty All Blacks fall. Can they rule world rugby again?

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The turning point in New Zealand rugby seems near. alarmist? Maybe. But as the cracks deepen as the All Blacks embark on a formative tour of South Africa, New Zealand are growing increasingly impatient for signs of a revival of their revered rugby tradition.

Two weeks ago, the All Blacks sparked a mass withdrawal after losing to Ireland in Wellington – a result that widely derided Ian Foster’s All Blacks to their first loss in a home series in 27 years, their first loss to the Irish and their fourth loss in brought five tests.

keyword outrage. Such a sharp plateau cuts New Zealand’s social and political divides to form a unified condemnation.

Six days of silence followed as the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby held high-profile meetings behind closed doors. The information vacuum sparked wild speculation, with calls for sackings from coach to captain.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster looks dejected as he speaks at a media conference

All Blacks manager Ian Foster speaks to the media in the week after the series loss to Ireland. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Foster has survived, at least for now, despite a winning record of 66.7% that makes him the worst All Blacks coach in the pro era.

In a defiant, emotional speech last week, Foster tried to counter the rising red fog. But only an immediate transformation in two brutal tests in South Africa’s Highveld can secure his future.

Related: ‘Worst All Blacks Ever’: New Zealand take on rugby side after Ireland defeat

Losses come in the form of All Blacks forward coach John Plumtree and attacking mentor Brad Mooar – both showing the door just months after their re-signing at the 2023 World Cup.

Firing mid-term coaches is a murderous idea, far more akin to European football than overly conservative New Zealand rugby, reflecting relentless public pressure and ongoing calls for change.

While rugby rankings require fathoming the Pythagorean theorem, the All Blacks, who fall to fourth place for the first time, shows their struggles aptly.

For the vocal malcontent, the circumstances surrounding Foster’s accession to the All Blacks throne – on the continuity ticket after eight years as Steve Hansen’s assistant – and the team’s subsequent malaise create a clear cause for the decline.

A challenging Covid landscape has been unkind to Foster’s troubled tenure, but the All Blacks’ now apparent erosion and that of their fear factor can be traced back to the tie 2017 British and Irish Lions series and crushing World Cup semi-finals. final defeat by England two years later.

England captain Owen Farrell smiles at the All Blacks as they perform the haka ahead of the 2019 World Cup semifinals.

England captain Owen Farrell smiles at the All Blacks as they perform the haka ahead of the 2019 World Cup semifinals. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Like climate change deniers, many New Zealand rugby fans refuse to accept that a changing of the guard is possible or that there are deeper issues at play than the manager.

While New Zealand rugby has a legacy of success, unrealistic expectations of the All Blacks winning every Test were rooted in the dominance of the nigh-untouchable team from 2012-2016, which lost twice in five years.

The All Blacks of the time make a compelling case for New Zealand’s greatest team of all time. It’s only now, in times of extreme frustration and calls for coaching cleanup, that their accomplishments are truly appreciated. Their like will probably never be seen again.

Further coaching changes could help improve the All Blacks’ fortunes, but that theory is too dismissive of the northern nations’ significant improvement since 2015, with France and Ireland now taking the lead.

The gap at the top has closed – and there’s every reason to believe it will stay that way.

A total reset may be needed from a New Zealand perspective. Planned quick fixes like the introduction of Crusaders’ six-time Super Rugby winner Scott Robertson may not offer an immediate cure.

Written off and under siege as they take on rugby’s toughest task, the All Blacks could silence their doubters by earning angry victories over world champions Springboks in the coming weeks.

But even in this utopian scenario, the deeper problems of New Zealand rugby are not addressed. Scratch the surface and a litany of challenges emerge.

This week, Hansen launched a scathing attack that laid the blame for a series of mistakes squarely on the feet of the New Zealand rugby board, saying the relationship between the board and the players was “probably the worst it’s ever been”. .

Other problems include the number of teenagers playing rugby, which has fallen alarmingly over the past eight years – down 17% by 2018, at a time when basketball’s popularity was rising 41%. This is partly due to the professionalization of schoolboys rugby and a lack of focus on those below the Elite First XVs. In Auckland alone, the number of secondary school rugby teams fell from 225 to 181 between 2013 and 2018.

The depleted grassroots scene, with many clubs merging and merging, continues to have a major impact on attendance and engagement, while spectatorship and ratings for elite sport are declining.

New Zealand’s talent development, particularly that of the once-dominant Under-20 team, has declined since 2017 before staging a sudden resurgence this season.

At the professional level, this year’s revamped 12-team super rugby competition revealed a lack of contrasting, confrontational styles. The absence of South Africa, and to a lesser extent Argentina, leaves largely homogenized competitions that do not prepare New Zealand players in the best possible way for the combative, suffocating Test arena. And while the recently signed $200 million deal with US private investment firm Silver Lake offers financial certainty, the potential long-term pressure points of this agreement remain unclear.

As Blues coach Leon MacDonald noted earlier this year, another pressing issue is receding depth. From America’s major league rugby to Japan and Europe, New Zealand’s holdings remain among the most looted.

“That’s a problem,” MacDonald said. “The depth of our players is getting smaller and smaller. We’ve found it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to find the players we need.”

A golden era of the All Blacks masked guns that have evolved into cracks. But with the cherished pyramid head threatening to collapse, the Shaky Isles are on the brink of reckoning with their national game.

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