Rugby: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern weighs in on future of coach Ian Foster, after back-to-back All Blacks losses

NZ Rugby has reaffrimed its support for embattled All Blacks coach Ian Foster, who has also received endorsement from someone else accustomed to intense public scrutiny - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The national rugby team have just completed a 15-game campaign that began in July, and climaxed with back-to-back losses to Ireland and France on their northern tour. 

Under Foster, they suffered three defeats for the first time in a decade, fuelling the scorn of critics who preferred to see successful Crusaders coach Scott Robertson appointed to the role for the next Rugby World Cup.

But as Ardern herself faces public criticism over her COVID-19 policies, she has told The AM Show she's not among those calling for the coach's head.

"I'm not quick to make those calls," she says. "Perhaps my view is, ultimately, it's a hard job to do.

"Whether you're up or whether you're down, sometimes you just need fans who are still rooting for you, no matter what."

Ardern could easily have been talking about herself.

NZ Rugby has already extended Foster's contract through the 2023 World Cup and will now turn its attention to securing his coaching staff.

"Obviously, the last couple of weeks, we've lost games we would prefer to win," admits NZR professional rugby general manager Chris Lendrum. "We'll get the team home safely, first and foremost.

"We're incredibly appreciative of the efforts our team have gone to over the last 15 weeks. It's a tour like no other, as they've called it - long and arduous - and there will be learnings to take out of those weeks.

"But we support Foz and the team, and we're just looking forward to getting them home and getting into the work to assess what we need to do to improve next year."

The All Blacks' next scheduled games with see them face Ireland in three tests at home next June.