Rugby World Cup: Ian Foster's final reflections as curtain comes down on All Blacks' head coaching tenure

With his time as All Blacks head coach now officially over, Ian Foster can look back with pride on his time as a steward of the black jersey.

On Sunday, a 12-11 defeat to South Africa brought an end to the Foster era and an 11-year association with the national team.

Firstly as assistant to Sir Steve Hansen and then as head coach, his third World Cup ended with a silver medal to go with 2015 victory and 2019 semi-final appearance.

As NZ Rugby looks to the future with the appointment of Scott Robertson from 2024, November 1 marks Foster's last official day as head coach of the All Blacks.

Dane Coles.
Dane Coles. Photo credit: Getty Images

Throughout the last four years, he has endured some of the lowest lows in the history of any All Blacks coach.

In 2022, he came within one defeat of becoming the first All Blacks coach in the professional era to be fired, before his players responded with victory over the Springboks at Ellis Park to secure his future through to the World Cup.

There was a time when Foster's win percentage saw him statistically among the worst modern All Blacks coaches. Now, only Hansen (93) and Sir Graham Henry (88) have won more tests as head coach than his 32.

Asked to reflect on the last four years, Foster insists it's up to others to determine where he stands in the pantheon of All Blacks coaches.

"I probably don't [reflect] at the moment," Foster said. "I know everyone's got their own interpretations of the last four years.

"I've read stuff written from different perspectives. Everyone in the country has a different filter of how they view you.

"They've got a filter where they didn't want you in the first place, so they filter everything you do based on that. That's OK.

"For me, my role as All Black head coach is to do the best I can and give everything to the job with the group I've been given in the circumstances.

"I'm going to go to bed with a smile on my face and a sense of satisfaction, but a hole of not achieving the final goal. I'll leave the rest to others."

In total, Foster coached the All Blacks in 46 tests, winning 32, losing 12 and drawing two.  

Forwards coach Jason Ryan says he wants Foster to be remembered for how much he cared for the team. Asked how he thinks he'll be remembered, Foster says the opinion of the rest of his team matters most.  

"What I've learned in the last four years is how I want to be remembered doesn't really matter," he continued.  

"Everyone else is going to write their views and it's hard to compete with that. I'm not sulking saying that, I'm saying that's the truth.

"People have their own filters of how they view All Black coaches, but I'm proud of this group. If I get remembered from within the group as someone who cared and united this group, then I'll take that."

While Foster's time with the All Blacks may be over, his time as a head coach isn't. Last week, he revealed he would continue coaching, even after he left the team.  

In fact, not wanting to distract from the build-up to the World Cup, Foster turned down advances of another nation before the tournament began.

Loyal to the All Blacks to a fault, Foster explains there's nothing he'll miss more about being head coach than the feel of a test match.  

"I'm going to miss walking up the stairs to the coaches' box for a test," he explained. "There's something about it.

"There's something about going and taking your seat, and watching the All Blacks play. Believe it or not, I love that.

"I keep reminding myself, it's a privileged position to be in. After that, it's the people - full stop.

"It's seeing young men grow and young men have to deal with the same pressure that I get put under, that they get put under, learning how to help people grow through that.

"They'll be the things that I 100 percent will miss the most."

There's an adage within New Zealand rugby about leaving the All Blacks jersey in a better position than you found it.


Ian Foster.
Ian Foster. Photo credit: Getty Images

While Foster says it's not for him to determine whether he's done that, even in defeat, the pride of his time as head coach needs no second explanation.

"If you ask me am I proud of what we've done, the answer is yes," he said. "I'll leave that to everyone else to answer.

"I got asked last night what my proudest moment was, it was last night - to be in a final, to see the team give everything and to play for a cause I think is pretty special. There's not much more you can ask as a coach."