‘Razor’ Robertson to be appointed All Blacks coach after World Cup
A former loose forward who played 23 tests for the All Blacks, Scott Robertson has become synonymous with the dominance of the Crusaders and renowned for his breakdancing celebrations after securing each championship trophy.
Scott Robertson will succeed Ian Foster as head coach of the All Blacks after this year’s Rugby World Cup, with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) moving quickly to lock in the successful Canterbury Crusaders boss.
Appointed on a four-year deal, Robertson’s contract will see him through to the end of the 2027 World Cup in Australia.
“It’s an honour to be named as the next All Blacks head coach,” said Robertson.
“It’s a job that comes with a huge amount of responsibility, but I’m excited by the opportunity to make a contribution to the legacy of the black jersey.
“To represent your country, as a coach or player, is the ultimate honour in sport and it’s humbling to be given that opportunity. I can’t wait.”
The 48-year-old, nicknamed ‘Razor’, lost out to Foster for the role after the 2019 World Cup when Steve Hansen stood down, but his sustained success in Super Rugby kept him firmly in the conversation for future candidates.
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There was heavy media speculation that Robertson was set to replace Foster last year after the All Blacks had a run of five losses in six tests, but after a review in August, NZR decided to stick with Foster.
Robertson, who has guided the Crusaders to six Super Rugby titles since taking over the South Island team in 2017, made no secret of his ambitions to coach at the highest level, or his willingness to take a role overseas if necessary.
Fearing few options might be left on the table after the World Cup, NZR confirmed three weeks ago it had launched an application process to settle the issue sooner rather than later.
Foster, who complained the coaching recruitment saga could prove a distraction for the team, declined to reapply for his job, leaving it a two-horse race between Robertson and Japan coach Jamie Joseph.
Robertson’s appointment puts an end to the speculation, but it may be of little comfort to Foster, who said he would have liked a chance to continue in the job if the All Blacks were to win the World Cup in France in September and October this year.
“The decision to appoint the next All Blacks head coach ahead of the Rugby World Cup was not taken lightly, but we believe it was the right decision for New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks and will set the team up for future success,” said NZR board chair Patsy Reddy.
Break with tradition
A former loose forward who played 23 tests for the All Blacks, Robertson has become synonymous with the dominance of the Crusaders.
However, for all his roaring success in Super Rugby, Robertson has never coached at international level and his appointment breaks with NZR’s recent tradition of picking long-serving insiders like Foster and Hansen.
With his former forwards coach at the Crusaders, Jason Ryan, now an assistant coach to Foster, Robertson said he had already identified his preferred staff.
Once the most feared rugby nation, New Zealand were knocked out of the semifinals at the 2019 World Cup in Japan and have fallen back in the pack after the retirement of a slew of greats.
They are currently ranked third behind Ireland and France, and stand to lose more senior players after the next World Cup.
“You’ve got what you got so you’ve got to make sure you perform from the start,” Robertson told reporters.
“But it excites me for all the young ones… what it would require to make them an All Black and get them ready.
Wave of emotion
An avid surfer, Robertson knows a thing or two about riding waves, but coaching the All Blacks may end up the most daunting of his career, with a big wipeout almost guaranteed without sustained success.
The job comes saddled with the expectations of a nation that lives and breathes the sport, and a public quick to demand heads roll when results fall short on the field – as current boss Foster knows all too well.
Five months shy of the Rugby World Cup, Foster has already been deemed unfit to continue in the role after the global showpiece – even if the All Blacks win it.
Despite guiding New Zealand to both Rugby Championship titles since taking over in 2019, Foster lost public support after their first home series loss to Ireland and the first home test defeat to Argentina last year.
Robertson, however, has long enjoyed broad support, with an army of advocates having pushed for him to replace Foster during the team’s 2022 slump.
Mixing demanding on-field standards with emotional intelligence, Robertson is also known for his breakdancing celebrations after securing each Crusaders’ championship trophy.
That crowd-pleasing wackiness makes a big change from the rather dour parade of suited men who have led the All Blacks for much of the past two decades.
“I’m really stoked,” Robertson told reporters of his appointment on Tuesday. “At times it felt like an election.
“People have got their opinions, and the ones that were positive would come up.
“I know not 100% of the crowd are going to be on your side. But we’re passionate, we’re in behind it, and it’s great that people have their thoughts, they pick their team, and they want the best for the country.
“You ride that. It’s part of who we are, our DNA, and I love it.”
Robertson took over the Crusaders at a low ebb and wasted no time in returning them to their former dominant standing.
He has never pulled that trick at international level, but said he was unfazed about the gap on his CV.
The New Zealand Rugby panel that unanimously selected him was also untroubled by it.
“It was one of the questions,” he said of his interview process.
“My answer was about continued success compared to international experience, and the balance of the two, and bringing that success with me, the formula, how I’ve done it, and the selection and relationships I’ve built.
“I’ve stayed in the fight, and here I am now.” Reuters/DM