Before 2021 the All Blacks had not lost back to back games against Northern Hemisphere opponents since 1994. This is a telling statistic. Should it be attributed to the increasing strength of Northern Hemisphere Rugby? Or, is it a sign this All Blacks team under coach Ian Foster is declining?
The All Blacks looked very promising at times during the 2021 season. Three convincing wins over their Australian counterparts proved a great start to their Rugby Championship campaign. However, a narrow win over South Africa and a subsequent narrow loss to the same team a week later consolidated many fans’ ideas. This All Blacks team are not the world beaters of times gone by.
Where things really got interesting was in the end of season tour. A strong start to the tour was made, with blow out wins against a second tier Welsh team and a solid victory of Italy. However, those victories were short-lived with two heavy defeat’s following.
Ireland successfully humiliated the All Blacks in Dublin where they forced them to make a whopping 231 tackles before defeating the All Blacks 29-20
A week later in Paris, many thought the All Blacks would bounce back in convincing fashion as we so often see. However, this was definitely not the case. Even the most one eyed New Zealand fans will admit this French team blew the All Blacks off the park. Particularly in the forwards where the dominance was obvious.
New Zealand did fight back and this was a fantastic game, but the end score line reflected the dominance of this French team, ending up 40-25. The All Blacks may just count themselves lucky they didn’t play the English on this end of year tour or things might be even more dire.
Much has been made of the tiredness of this All Black team, and given the situation with Covid bubble’s and extended periods away from home, this reasoning is somewhat justified. However, this should not take away from the fact this is the All Blacks first back to back defeat to northern hemisphere opponents in 27 years. It’s also the first time since 2009 the All Blacks have conceded 3 test defeats in a calendar year. Stats I am sure Foster will be well aware of.
I think its safe to say Foster is under pressure in 2022. Bringing former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt into the fold may assist in adding new ideas to the mix. However, only time will tell whether Foster can turn things around with this All Blacks team.