Hansen whacks NZ Rugby board, backs Foster

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Clouds over the All Blacks setup refuse to clear, with legendary coach Steve Hansen entering the fray to defend incumbent Ian Foster and savage the New Zealand Rugby board.

Dissatisfaction at All Blacks performances has reached fever pitch in the wake of New Zealand's first home series loss since 1994, their 2-1 defeat to Ireland last month.

Much has been centred on coach Ian Foster, Hansen's long-term assistant, who took the reins in 2019 but boasts just a 67 per cent win rate - the team's lowest since 1980.

Hansen said criticism of Foster and captain Sam Cane was unfair.

Instead, he unloaded on New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chiefs, saying they had undermined players, bungled leadership transitions, and neglected under-age rugby.

"The relationship between the board and the exec with the players at the moment is probably the worst it's ever been," Hansen told Today FM's Tova program.

"I don't think they're doing their job right.

"I don't think the issue is just inside the team, I think there's bigger issues than that."

Hansen blamed NZR chair Brent Impey, who left the role in May, for destroying relations with players during negotiations over a vast capital injection from private equity firm Silver Lake.

Calling for a review of the board, Hansen said the breakdown of relationships across the game had led to a malaise.

"If you look back to when we were really successful from 2010 to 2019 which was out most successful era ... the board and exec at the rugby union were humming," he said.

"There was complete togetherness and connection with the actual All Black team."

Hansen pointed to U20 World Cup performances, which have fallen off a cliff, to demonstrate a deeper problem.

New Zealand won the first four titles from 2008-2011 but just two of the eight since, finishing seventh in the latest edition.

"We've got to look wider than (the Ireland loss)," he said.

Foster's All Blacks leave for South Africa on Friday, where they face the world champion Springboks in two mighty Tests.

Hansen preached support for Foster as he "goes through adversity" and compared Cane to two-time World Cup winning captain Ritchie McCaw.

"I am probably sitting in the seat best to be able to quantify whether (Foster) is a good coach or not because I coached with him for 16 years at the highest level. He's a very good coach," he said.

"We have to believe in (Cane). We have to support him. He'll come right. He's too good a player not to come right. He just needs time in the saddle."

Further growing the tension around the team, Crusaders coach Scott 'Razor' Robertson gave an interview to The Rugby Pod, released on Tuesday, where he declared he still wanted to coach at international level.

Robertson was overlooked for the top job in 2019, when NZR decided on Foster.

Hansen said the six-time Super Rugby winner was "a wonderful coach" who was "positioning himself and good on him".

"His time will come and then we'll see if he's ready or not. The difference between Super Rugby and international rugby is massive," he added.

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