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Rugby: Warren Gatland says All Blacks’ defeats came at ideal time

Aaron Smith of New Zealand and All Black coach Ian Foster after the victory in Johannesburg. Photosport

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says he’s never seen public morale so low following the All Blacks’ run of defeats this season.

Ian Foster’s job as head coach looked under threat following the side’s opening Rugby Championship 26-10 defeat to the Springboks in Mbombela.

In a column for the Telegraph Gatland says the public reaction towards Foster was ‘complete turmoil’.

“In all the time I have been involved with rugby, I have never seen a head coach under that amount of pressure and scrutiny. In New Zealand, there was complete turmoil,” Gatland wrote.

“The vitriol leveled at the coach and squad on social media was completely alien and over the top for a nation that has always been regarded as the heavyweights in world rugby. Never before has public morale in our national team been so low.”

Leading up to the South African tour, the Herald reported that Foster is understood to have been told by his New Zealand Rugby bosses that they expected him to resign if his side lost the two test or failed to show definitive improvements.

The All Blacks bounced back to win 35-23 at Ellis Park and despite a first ever home defeat to Argentina, went onto win the Rugby Championship with two wins over the Wallabies.

Gatland said the four defeats against Ireland, South Africa and Argentina could be seen as a positive, one year out from the Rugby World Cup in France.

“New Zealand needed this wobble before next year’s World Cup. It shouldn’t necessarily be viewed negatively – in fact it is a huge positive for New Zealand Rugby and healthy for the wider game.

“Such is the volatile nature of Test rugby that you can post 20 or 30 points on a team one week and then get hammered by them the next. It is fantastic to see international teams that are capable of beating each other if they get their strategy right on the day. “

Gatland said he could sense an All Blacks’ downfall when he arrived back in New Zealand after ending his time as Wales coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“I sensed a slight reluctance to talk about anything new or look at what teams in the northern hemisphere were doing.

“That certainly rang true when the All Blacks lost to France 40-25 last November, in what was a dress rehearsal for the opening game of the 2023 World Cup. Only recently has there been a shift – players have started to be more receptive to the new ideas and philosophies that have infiltrated the camp in the wake of recent coaching reinforcements. “

“But the real acid test will be their showdown against England at Twickenham in November. That will be a very good indication of where both teams are a year out from a World Cup,” he added.

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