Ian Foster insists that Super Rugby needs to change or the All Blacks risk slipping behind the rest of the world.
Once the game’s premier club tournament, it has gradually declined in interest, quality and competitiveness over the years.
Various attempts to expand it have failed and, in 2020 following Covid, it reduced in size after the South African franchises were cut from the competition.
Introduction of Pacific Island sides
Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua were added to create Super Rugby Pacific, but it has fallen behind what Europe is currently offering as a spectacle.
“The Super Rugby competition needs a massive amount of attention,” Foster told The Platform.
“We’ve got to make sure Super Rugby’s a viable competition, and that our players are playing as much as possible, and are playing teams with a diverse way of playing.
“Through necessity, we got narrowed down a bit through Covid and we ended up playing ourselves (in Super Rugby Aotearoa). I think it took us the best part of 2022 and 2023 to recover a little bit internationally.
“What the solutions are, I’m not sure, but it’s got to be at the top of the tree (to sort out).”
Foster also has concerns over the pathways in New Zealand, with their age-grade teams not dominating like they used to.
The Baby Blacks claimed the first four world U20 titles following its inception in 2008, but they have only won it twice more since then.
“It’s critical for the All Blacks that we have strong Super Rugby clubs and I think we have, but the only way to grow those clubs is to develop and fine-tune our development system underneath that,” the former New Zealand head coach said.
“There’s confusion in that area of how we develop players. We haven’t nailed the U20 age group for a decent amount of time.”
Scott Robertson’s options
Foster doesn’t think that his successor as All Blacks boss, Scott Robertson, should have a problem in building a quality side, however.
The 58-year-old believes that he has left the squad in a good place and that the departures of some key players should not be too disruptive.
“I think we’ve lost eight players and of the eight you would say six are iconic. The reality is that happens at every World Cup and the number that we’ve lost this year is almost smaller than the last two World Cups,” he added.
“Something that has perhaps gone a little bit unnoticed, if you look at the last two years, a lot of younger guys have come into the team.
“A lot of that team is likely to be there in another four years. In particular, the youth of some of that forward pack is gold. That holds us in really good stead at the top for the next period.”