- By Kevin McCarthy
Napoleon (the movie) thunders on to our cinema screens soon. Which got me thinking in the aftermath of the rugby world cup final about his supposed preference that his Generals above all else be Lucky.
Was there anyone else who, watching Sam Cane dying a thousand deaths on the touchline for nigh on 50 minutes, did not think that somehow, misfortune was going to find him at the last.
Yes, yes, I know he is a professional rugby player who is paid to pull of high speed collisions without being red carded. But if felt like the curse (of Richie’s shadow?) that has always dogged his career, wanted the last laugh.
We forget how often the McCaw era All Blacks in their pomp pulled off ridiculous comebacks at the death.
Indeed, the Springboks last Sunday rode and rode their luck. That, and tackled like demons.
Whether luck is an intangible, or rather (as Gary Player and / or others have said) “The harder you practice, the luckier you get,” it did feel the All Blacks with a luckier general might have got over the line.
And then Ian Foster’s Waterloo would have been a remarkable comeback.
Instead, he arrived back to St Helena this week, perhaps unburdened, but one sensed, still carrying a bit of a chip on the shoulder.
In essence, he said he’d faced challenges with a pandemic and governance that no other All Black coach had faced, and at the end of the day, he’d always tried to do his best.
The first part is questionable (and the pandemic happened to every other team globally) but the second is not. And Ian Foster’s best, at the end, was almost very, very good.
Certainly, the fact that a 14-man side was the one pushing for victory for much of the second half will become the stuff of legend in future years. A losing legend but you take what you can.
Since the Foster era is now that, an era, then the assessments can be made. It’s up to you, but perhaps the fairest guage is not win or lose at a World Cup – fiendishly difficult things.
Foster instead was part of the All Blacks for 11 years, most of them highly successful as an assistant. His tenure as head coach teetered wildly – which may suggest the top job, and the marshalling of a coaching team beneath him – were not where he was the strongest.
It took the Ireland crisis to kickstart necessary changes; it’s hard not to look back on what went before as time not well spent. Foster may be right to point to the obstacles he faced, but if there had been no Ireland series, would the same management team have meandered on to a mediocre world cup. Probably.
There is a centrifugal force that says the years in between world cups don’t matter that much. It’s a rubbish argument, at least for New Zealand fans. Scott Robertson is about to find out something he surely already knows – that expectations are high and will remain that way, test after test. World Cups matter, when World Cups are played.
If the All Blacks had won on Sunday, you can be sure there would have been an attempt to elevate Ian Foster to one of the greats. Instead, the fairest assessment would be that he showed himself able to reboot, recalibrate and achieve – with his players and management – what was a terrific tilt at winning the Cup.
From where he began, not much over 18 months ago, that is not too shabby at all. Not too shabby at all.
The international rugby season may be almost over, but there remains the WXV final match this Saturday.
It’s hard to imagine it hitting the heights of the world cup final last year (incidentally, we fans did not fixate on England’s red card in that one!).
But it would be nice to see the revamped Black Ferns doing it again. In the depths of last year, they were carrying the sport’s public persona on their back, as the men’s side stuttered along.
Then everyone can get some summer rest.
Except for Razor Robertson. No rest for you!
News this morning that Wayne Barnes has hung up his pea:
An outstanding career 👏
Wayne Barnes has announced his retirement from refereeing after taking charge of 111 Test matches and 272 #GallagherPrem fixtures.
Tap below to read our statement ⤵️
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 2, 2023
Super Rugby squads for 2024 are being named next Thursday 9 November.
The Highlanders have been busy as per the X below:
Highlanders have signed 4 NZ Schools players – Josh Tengblad (Sacred Heart), Quinten Holland (King's), Dylan Pledger (King's), Tayne Harvey (Palmerston North Boys' High) and NZ U18 Barbarian Josh Augustine (Napier Boys' High School). Believe two will head to Southland for NPC.
— Paul Cully (@paulcullystuff) November 2, 2023