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If Crusaders coach Scott Robertson (right) replaces under-fire All Blacks coach Ian Foster, he’s tipped to recruit Blues coach Leon MacDonald to join his staff as an assistant.
If Crusaders coach Scott Robertson replaces Ian Foster as All Blacks coach, it’s understood Leon MacDonald and Jason Holland will be among those recruited as his assistants.
Former Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan, who was asked by Foster to replace Plumtree after the 2-1 series loss to Ireland last month, is expected to be retained if Robertson gets the job.
With incumbent Foster under immense pressure after five defeats from six tests, the match against the Springboks in Johannesburg on Sunday morning may be his final game in charge before he either resigns or is sacked by NZ Rugby.
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Speculation about Foster’s future has reached fever pitch since the All Blacks were beaten 26-10 by the Springboks in Mbombela last weekend, with a groundswell of support for Robertson to replace him before the next Rugby Championship test against Argentina in Christchurch on August 27.
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Should he take over from Foster, Robertson will want to hand-pick the assistants he believes can help produce a team capable of winning the World Cup in France next year.
It’s understood MacDonald and Holland, who coach the Blues and the Hurricanes, Ryan and Crusaders assistant coach Scott Hansen have been short-listed.
When Robertson was interviewed for the All Blacks job after the 2019 World Cup – he was overlooked for Foster – he wanted Ryan, MacDonald and Holland on his coaching staff.
After Ryan left the Crusaders – he had coached under his friend Robertson at the franchise since 2017 – he made it clear how difficult the decision was. But he said he couldn’t turn down the All Blacks.
“We worked together for 12 years, so let’s not hide from that,” Ryan said in reference to Robertson. “We had a good chat and a good coffee. I wished me all the best, and it was a good moment.”
If he does get the job, and recruits MacDonald and Holland, it will mean the Crusaders, Blues and Hurricanes will be forced to search for new coaches to lead their programs.
MacDonald, who played with Robertson at the Crusaders and assisted him when the team won the 2017 Super Rugby title, was appointed Blues coach in 2019.
Robertson was instrumental in arranging a job for Holland at Canterbury in 2013 when he returned to New Zealand following a long playing and coaching career at Irish club Munster.
Holland later moved to the Hurricanes and in 2020 took over the top job after Plumtree accepted Foster’s invitation to join the All Blacks.
The Crusaders, undoubtedly, will be hit hardest if Robertson replaces Foster.
The Christchurch-based franchise has yet to name a replacement for Ryan. If Robertson and Hansen, who deals with the game plan and attack strategies, also depart it will mean the franchise will have to fill three positions.
Had NZ Rugby appointed Robertson as coach instead of Foster in late 2019, it could have potentially avoided such a messy situation.
If Robertson, MacDonald and Holland do join the All Blacks, the contracting part of the transition should be relatively smooth given they are all directly accountable to NZ Rugby.
Following the Irish series Foster sacked attack coach Brad Mooar and Plumtree, while replacing departing selector Grant Fox with ex-Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.
Now, if Foster departs, it’s unclear whether scrum coach Greg Feek, defense mentor Scott McLeod, Schmidt and the other management staff will remain with the All Blacks.