(Reuters) – Finishing the season with 12 wins out of 15 tests would probably not trigger a crisis for most major rugby nations but All Blacks coach Ian Foster will head home from Europe to a storm of calls for his sacking.
Back-to-back losses to Ireland and France to conclude their end-of-season tour, on top of the 31-29 defeat at the hands of world champions South Africa in October, have brought many All Blacks fans to the end of their tether.
A poll of more than 18,000 fans by the New Zealand Herald found backing for the coach to keep his job at only 4.5%, while callers to talkback radio shows have lambasted both Foster and the New Zealand Rugby board that extended his contract in July.
After the 40-25 loss to France on Saturday night, Foster insisted that the All Blacks were making progress, while conceding that his side had perhaps run out of juice at the end of a long campaign.
A first loss to France in Paris since 1973, the highest number of defeats in a single season since 2009, and second place in the world rankings are not statistics that sit well with fans just two years out from the 2023 World Cup.
“The All Blacks wanted to end the year as the number one ranked side in the world, but they traipsed off Stade de France unsure if they can honestly say they are even in the top five,” rugby writer Gregor Paul wrote in the Herald.
“The problem for the All Blacks now is that the world doesn’t fear them because the world doesn’t have to.”
Self-pity is not a quality indulged in All Blacks culture and experienced hooker Dane Coles was clear that the players needed to do some good, hard thinking over the summer break.
“We’ve got to look ourselves in the eye and have those tough conversations we can’t shy away from,” Coles told Stuff Media.
“These last two games haven’t been good enough. We need to take everything out of it, dissect it and we need to be better going forward.”
(This story corrects number of wins to 12, not 13, in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Shri Navaratnam)