All Blacks: Wayne Smith empathises with Ian Foster after stinging criticism

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

One of the All Blacks’ great coaches, Wayne Smith, knows what Ian Foster is going through but believes that it is important the under fire head honcho remains positive.

Smith is widely regarded as one of the world’s best coaches and played a key role in helping New Zealand to claim the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups.

He has not been absolved of criticism, however, having endured a rough patch with the Crusaders before recovering to guide them to consecutive Super Rugby titles.

That success earned him a shot at the All Blacks’ head coach role but it did not work out, with Smith resigning in 2001.

Despite the flak being directed at the individual, the 65-year-old says that it can actually be harder for their loved ones.

“You know what’s going on, of course you know. It’s not nice for family in particular. I can handle it, but it’s bloody difficult for your mum and dad, you sister, your wife, that’s probably where it hurts most,” he told Stuff.

Turning it around

Smith insists that it is vital Foster retains a positive mindset as it could quite easily turn around, like it did for him following the disappointment of the 2007 World Cup.

“I understand that you’ve just got to suck it up, but it is miserable at the time, however it can be euphoric afterwards,” he said.

“You don’t want to be hated by the public. I’d guarantee none of the politicians enjoy being hated, but you have to handle it.

“It’s not easy, and we’re not taught that as part of our training – well I wasn’t. I’m an optimist [but] I’ve actually learned it – I’m not a natural optimist. I’ve learned to dispute it when told I couldn’t do things.

“I’ve always thought every dog has its day and mine’s going to be next week … we’ll go all right next week.

“I’m sure Fossie and Sam Cane will be the same, they’ll be thinking ‘we’ll put this right’, it’s an important mindset.”

High expectations

Smith knows Foster well having worked with him in the New Zealand set-up and understands the pressure the head coach is feeling.

“Rugby’s our national sport. The All Blacks have been at the top for so long, due to expectations. Expectations breed success. You’ve got to win, you’ve got to win, you’ve got to win,” he said.

“To me that’s always been a positive thing for the All Blacks, [but] the pressure sometimes isn’t comfortable.

“It keeps you on edge, but those expectations have driven the All Blacks over years and years. As coach, you understand we all want to have an opinion. You expect it, but it doesn’t mean it’s nice. We’ve got in the situation now where there’s very little acceptance of failure for the All Blacks.

“That can make it difficult for you, because you’re still a person, and you’re doing your best – all the people in the environment are doing their best.”

Smith, who is currently coaching the Black Ferns, did not discuss the issues surrounding the All Blacks, but says that Foster needs time to figure it out and address their problems.

Horrible situation

“It’s not quite working at the moment, but there’s not a lot of empathy about why. We can never blame the public for that, we all have those expectations,” he added.

“It’s a horrible situation when you’re in it, but you also accept it’s the way it’s going to be.

“Everyone wants you to stand up and give answers. Sometimes you just haven’t got them, and you need time to reflect, and get cracking again and win next week.”

READ MORE: Changes to Ian Foster’s backroom team as John Plumtree and Brad Mooar axed

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