Ian Foster’s re-signing as All Blacks head coach this week confirmed the next, pivotal juncture in Scott Robertson’s coaching career will be the 2023 World Cup.
New Zealand Rugby handed Foster a two-year contract extension on Tuesday to end any chance of Robertson assuming the coveted All Blacks job before the next World Cup in France.
While Robertson committed to the Crusaders through to 2024 in July he had a clause to contest the All Blacks position if it became available this year.
Robertson has a similar out in 2023 that also allows him to explore all options, including international and club positions abroad.
By 2023, Robertson will have coached the Crusaders for seven years and it, therefore, makes sense to consider his pathway.
Foster was reappointed after locking away the Bledisloe Cup with a record win over the Wallabies at Eden Park. In a challenging climate amid the global pandemic and ever-changing schedules he holds a 73 per cent win record as All Blacks head coach with eight victories, two losses and one draw.
The All Blacks departed for Perth on Thursday and will spend the next 14 weeks away from home – a timeframe that includes 12 tests in six countries.
Robertson, speaking for the first time since Foster’s reappointment, was philosophical about NZ Rugby’s decision to act now. After missing out to Foster last year, following the All Blacks’ World Cup semifinal defeat to England, he always knew a change of heart from the board was unlikely.
“New Zealand Rugby think he is the man for the job and they’ve given him an early call to go on and win a Rugby World Cup. We’ll get in behind and support him,” Robertson told the Herald.
“It’s a results-based game, we know that. In high performance sport you’re constantly reviewed and judged. That’s part of our positions.
“He’s got to a point where they feel like he’s done enough. I always knew there would have to be a point where they would have to make a call and they have done that. I understand the circumstances of making a decision before they get on the plane.
“For me, I was well aware with signing my contract that this could happen. They were never clear when it was going to be but they’ve made the call. I’ve got security for myself and my family.”
Foster’s reappointment cements Robertson’s focus for the next two years on the Crusaders and attempting to build on his remarkable record of delivering five Super Rugby titles in as many years, but he admits the next big decision on his future will come in 2023.
While Robertson is the next obvious contender, the other part of the equation from an All Blacks perspective is whether NZ Rugby again favours promoting from within, as was the case with Steve Hansen and Foster stepping up from previous assistant roles.
“I’m working really hard at mastering my craft as a coach so the next two years is a big opportunity for me to get better for whatever opportunity comes up,” Robertson said.
“Time comes round quick and we’re going to have to make another decision with what’s right for my career moving forward.
“It will come down to the Rugby World Cup. That’s top of the job description with the All Blacks to win it. You wish Ian all the best. That’s high performance sport and you plan for all the opportunities in front of you.
“My role is to create an environment that the boys love and perform. My focus has always been on the Crusaders and if the opportunity came up with the All Blacks then great that would be my focus.
“I’ve got an incredible organisation, coaching and management to work with and the playing group is world-class so that’s exciting in itself.
“It’s easy to focus on once you realise they’ve made a call.”
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