The six-point plan to save New Zealand rugby

·5-min read
The six-point plan to save New Zealand rugby - AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
The six-point plan to save New Zealand rugby - AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

David Moffett, the former chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union, has outlined his six-point plan to save rugby in New Zealand.

The All Blacks are in disarray on and off the field and are in the midst of their worst run of form in a generation following a first ever home test series defeat to Ireland and their heaviest defeat against South Africa in 94 years. As a result, head coach Ian Foster’s job is hanging by the thinnest of threads, while the governance of the New Zealand Rugby Union also under fire.

Moffett, who was responsible for the biggest overhaul in the history of the Welsh Rugby Union when he originally formed five professional regions during his time as CEO, has put forward his plan for New Zealand to Telegraph Sport.

  • Remove NZRU chief executive Mark Robinson, replacing him with a more experienced CEO

  • Relieve Ian Foster of his duties as head coach and appoint Scott Robertson as his replacement

  • Restructure the governance of the game in New Zealand by accelerating the Silverlake deal

  • Look for an alternative tournament to Super Rugby

  • Appoint a new public relations team to make the NZRU more accountable

  • Rigorous focus on the way talent is identified and brought through

'The chief executive has made a mess of five or six important issues'

Despite Foster taking most of the flack, Moffett insists the buck stops with the chief executive Mark Robinson. The 75-year-old believes Robinson has got most of his decisions wrong since replacing Steve Tew in 2019.

“The first thing I would do is sack the chief executive because he’s made a mess of five or six extremely important issues,” he said.

“They appointed Robinson off the back of a few seasons as CEO of Taranaki Rugby Union. They basically said don’t worry about your lack of experience we’ll make you CEO of the organisation in New Zealand which has got the highest profile, and a 100 million dollar plus turnover, and you can learn on the job.

“This guy hasn’t got the ability to be a chief executive officer. I’ve always been a fan of Phillip Browne the former CEO of the Irish Rugby football Union, but I doubt they’ll go for him. It must be someone who understands rugby and is accountable for his or her actions.”

'They need to lay off the whole PR department... the chief executive isn't getting the right advice'

Former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen recently accused the NZRU of presiding over a series of failures and claimed the relationship between the All Blacks players and the board was “the worst it’s ever been.”

After Hansen’s comments and their test series defeat in Ireland Foster was left to face the media on his own, with Robinson not fronting up once.

Sam Cane of the New Zealand All Blacks looks on dejected following the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Ireland at Sky Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand - Getty Images AsiaPac
Sam Cane of the New Zealand All Blacks looks on dejected following the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Ireland at Sky Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand - Getty Images AsiaPac

“One thing that really annoys me about the Foster situation is that he’s hanging him out to dry,” said Moffett.  “After that game against South Africa he should have been sitting at the top table with Foster and Sam Cane to field questions from the media.

“They need to lay off their whole PR department because they aren’t giving the chief executive the right advice. It’s so disrespectful to the supporters.”

'Foster got the role because of New Zealand's "jobs for the boys" culture'

Moffett also blames New Zealand’s 2011 Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Graham Henry for their current predicament after he allegedly turned his nose up at successful Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson’s application to replace Steve Hansen after the 2011 World Cup.

“Graham Henry was on the selection panel, and he had a lot of sway,” he said. “He should never have been on it because there’s a 'jobs for the boys' culture in New Zealand so he went for his mate Foster.

“The primary reason Henry should not have been on this panel is because nobody can hold him to account as he doesn’t hold a position with the NZRU.

“Razor [Scott] Robertson applied, and he took Leon McDonald and Jason Ryan with him. Graham Henry made a big thing of this and thought his assistants weren’t good enough which was the justification for Robertson not getting the job.

“This is how pathetic New Zealand Rugby administration is. He’s a great guy but they need to put Foster out of his misery immediately and appoint Scott Robertson while allowing him to bring his own backroom team.

"The NZRPA negotiated a much better Silver Lake Deal and as part of an ongoing agreement with NZR, a complete overhaul will be undertaken. This should be expedited."

'Nobody fears the All Blacks anymore'

Autumn International - Ireland v New Zealand - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland - November 13, 2021 Ireland players celebrate as New Zealand's Samuel Whitelock looks dejected after the match - Reuters
Autumn International - Ireland v New Zealand - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland - November 13, 2021 Ireland players celebrate as New Zealand's Samuel Whitelock looks dejected after the match - Reuters

New Zealand’s five Super Rugby franchises have been playing in a competition with five Australian sides, and two sides from the Pacific Islands since South Africa moved to play in the United Rugby Championship. Moffett insists this has been a hammer blow to the All Blacks.

“The current Super Rugby competition doesn’t prepare players well enough for Test rugby,” he said.

“It’s a shadow of the Super 12 competition I set up. The French and English leagues might be bat---- boring, but they prepare players for Test rugby whereas what we’ve got now is like basketball.

“Losing the South African sides hurt us. Nobody fears the All Blacks anymore.

“We need to do something radical because more people play basketball in New Zealand now than rugby union.

"NZ U20s have been poor in recent years and the much-vaunted academies are no longer fit for purpose. An overhaul of the development pathway must be undertaken."