Rugby World Cup: Coach Ian Foster refuses to say 'I told you so' as All Blacks cruise into 2023 final

Coach Ian Foster has resisted saying "I told you so", after his All Blacks reached the final of the 2023 Rugby World Cup - he didn't need to.

On Saturday, the All Blacks dispatched Argentina in the most convincing of fashion to reach a record fifth World Cup final.  

In 2022, Foster came within one game of losing his job, before the All Blacks saved their coach with a backs-to- the-wall victory over South Africa at Ellis Park.

The All Blacks celebrate against Argentina.
The All Blacks celebrate against Argentina. Photo credit: Getty Images

More than a year on, they'll face either South Africa or England, with an unprecedented fourth Webb Ellis Cup on the line.

Should the All Blacks get over the line, Foster could add his name to the likes of Sir Brian Lochore, Sir Graham Henry and Sir Steve Hansen - all knighted for their achievements - as a World Cup winner.

For Foster, a sense of vindication would be deserved. From the day he was appointed, there were detractors and those in favour of others taking charge of the side in his place.

Foster has always maintained he is the right man for the job and anything else would be unbefitting of the All Blacks head coach.

Asked whether the All Blacks' 44-6 semi-final victory over Argentina at Paris was satisfying in silencing his critics, Foster has opted to take the high road, rather than throw barbs at those who'd done the same to him.

"I'm just proud to be part of this group," Foster said. "There's no personal agenda here, this is about the All Blacks.

"It's always about the team. Things have happened to individuals in the team, clearly they've happened to me, but it doesn't change, the team comes first.

"All the decisions we make have to be about what's the best thing for the team.

"Right now, we're doing a lot of those decisions together as a group and it's working well."

For the players, the win is also sweet. If a key group of leaders within the All Blacks team hadn't pleaded his case, Foster would likely have been sacked last year.

Belief in their coach has always been there, as much as their belief in each other, but after he survived some of the darkest days an All Blacks coach has faced, the pride in Foster couldn't be clearer.  

"The proof is in the pudding," said flanker Dalton Papali'i. "He's taken us all the way here.

"Things have been put in motion, this is his last game. What a way for us to send him - and also our senior players - off, if we can pull the job off.

"He's a credit to himself and how he's held himself, and all the boys respect him, the man he is and the coach he is."

Now, the All Blacks will enjoy an extra day's rest, with the chance of finding out their next opponents.

On one hand, reigning world champions South Africa, who inflicted a record defeat on the All Blacks last time they met. On the other, England, who knocked the All Blacks out of the 2019 World Cup in Japan and held Foster's side to a 25-all draw last year.

Foster has no preference to who'll line up against the haka next week.  

"I'll be watching it, probably with some popcorn," Foster added. "I don't care who wins.

Ian Foster.
Ian Foster. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We're very much in a 'focus on ourselves' stage at this moment. One thing the extra day gives us [is] a chance for a break mentally and not to spend too much juice, if it's them or them.

"They're both good teams. South Africa's been playing some brilliant rugby the last few weeks and are clearly on top of their game, but we've also seen an English team that's just built away quietly.

"They understand how they want to play and they're starting to get really good about how they want to play and believe in that.

"It'll be an interesting contrast of styles."