WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The expected appointment of a new head coach and reports of a growing exodus of leading players have begun to shake the All Blacks’ preparation for this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
New Zealand Rugby has indicated it likely will announce a successor to Ian Foster before the tournament begins, a move some observers have described as destabilizing.
The issue became more fraught this week when Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, one of the leading candidates to take over from Foster, said the announcement of a new All Blacks coach is imminent.
New Zealand Rugby has rushed to douse speculation it is about to announce an appointment.
In a one-sentence statement, it said: “New Zealand Rugby is continuing to have internal discussions but an announcement about the All Blacks head coach or process is not imminent.”
Robertson maintains that he has some knowledge of how and when the process will play out.
“Whatever their process is, they’ve just got to give me enough run-in time whenever they go and I can do my job here at (the Crusaders),” Robertson said.
Robertson’s public comments suggest he's confident he is the preferred candidate. He was close to being appointed last year but Foster’s job was saved when the All Blacks beat the world champion Springboks in Johannesburg.
The new coach — whoever that is — will face a major rebuilding task as more and more current All Blacks retire or head overseas.
Hooker Dane Coles announced Thursday he will retire at the end of the year. The 36-year-old front-row forward has played 84 tests, scoring 20 tries. but his career recently has been hampered by injuries.
Veteran lock Brodie Retallick has confirmed he will play in Japan after the World Cup. The former World Rugby Player of the Year joins a growing list of New Zealanders seeking to take advantage of the lucrative contracts available in Japan.
Flyhalves Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett and scrumhalf Aaron Smith also are heading to Japan. Smith has signed a long-term contract with the Toyota club which likely will end his All Blacks career.
More players are expected to join the exodus as the Sept. 8-Oct. 28 World Cup nears.
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