‘The world has caught up’ – Former All Black is worried for Scott Robertson

Colin Newboult
New All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson in 2023.

New All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson in 2023.

Justin Marshall has urged for patience from All Blacks supporters when new boss Scott Robertson takes charge for the 2024 Test season.

Ian Foster’s reign ended after New Zealand succumbed 12-11 to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final in Paris.

The 58-year-old, who became head coach after the 2019 global tournament, was heavily criticised during his time in the hotseat.

Foster was almost sacked following a poor run in 2022 – with Robertson being lined up to replace him there and then – but stayed on and almost led the All Blacks to the Webb Ellis Cup a year later.

Success with Crusaders

Robertson is well-regarded having created a dynasty at the Crusaders, leading them to seven titles in as many seasons.

Expectation among supporters is therefore high going into the next World Cup cycle, but Marshall believes that it may take time for him to get it right.

“To me, it will be interesting to see how much rope the New Zealand rugby public give Scott Robertson, given that he’s going to have quite a different-looking side to work with,” he told The Platform.

“He’s still going to have some of the key players that were part of Ian Foster’s side, your Jordie Barrett’s, Rieko Ioane’s.

“But the halves will be completely different. There could possibly be a change at full-back. It might take a little bit of time, and he’s not going to have a great amount of time.

“I feel we’re in a really good position of depth and the one thing about Scott Robertson is that he does his homework.

“He will already be thinking about what type of game he now wants the All Blacks (to play).”

Part of the reason for the All Blacks’ lack of dominance during Foster’s reign was the improvement from the other sides in the world game.

Ireland deservedly led the rankings for 15 months, while France became a powerhouse in the sport under Fabien Galthie.

With the Springboks always competitive under the savvy leadership of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, and turning up when it mattered at the World Cup, the top-four were incredibly even.

“We are harsh on our All Blacks but I guess there’s that argument that the rest of the world have caught us up. They’ve got to the point now where it’s not mandatory you win 13 of your 14 Tests a year, and maybe we just have to accept that what we’re getting now is real contests,” Marshall said.

“The All Blacks are actually having to front up every week and there’s no real guarantee that they’re going to win, and that’s got to be exciting for the spectators hasn’t it?”

World Cup pride

It is never nice to finish second, which is what the All Blacks did at the recent World Cup, but Marshall felt that the team did themselves justice with their display in the final.

“The All Blacks showed great fortitude, they showed real heart and they never stopped trying. They also had more possession and more ball, which goes to show that they’re extremely fit,” he added.

“They backed themselves and I certainly thought that, given they were down a man for the majority of the game, they could have won it.

“You have to be incredibly impressed and incredibly proud as a New Zealander about the way that they tackled adversity. In a difficult situation, they didn’t bow their heads, they puffed their chests out and got stuck in.

“I never thought it was going to be anything but a close contest that came down to a couple of significant moments. Ultimately, that’s what happened.

“The top-four teams in the world, and New Zealand and South Africa are two of them alongside France and Ireland, were basically inseparable.

“All of the results and all of the games when those teams played pretty much justified that. It was a tough tournament to win and the All Blacks very nearly got there.”

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