After six days of silence from New Zealand Rugby and All Blacks, tense private meetings and feverish speculation, Ian Foster emerged to tell us change is coming but that he is going nowhere.

During an emotional five-minute address to the media before taking questions from the floor, Foster’s initial raspy voice reflected a torrid week of scrutiny on a personal and collective front, the New Zealand Herald reported.

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Foster detailed an intense period of robust discussions with NZ Rugby, his management team and senior players before firmly stating his intent to remain in the head coach role.

But before opening up, an NZ Rugby media manager told all the media present to not live stream the event.

But after the awkward start, Foster opened up and attempted to dismiss the call for a coaching clean-out after the All Blacks slumped to four losses from their last five tests and their first home series defeat in 27 years.

“I’m Ian Foster and I’m the All Blacks head coach,” Foster projected. “As a head coach there’s been a lot of questions the past few weeks. Let me tell you who I am. I am strong. I am resilient – I think I’ve proven that. I believe I have a great feel and relationship with my players. I’m strategic and also accountable. I’m excited about the chance to show you what this team is made of.”

Asked how close he was to walking away, Foster twice replied “not at all”.

“There’s no doubt I’m under pressure but I’m always under pressure and I’ve always felt that. External people will try to intensify that but it doesn’t change the fact that as an All Blacks coach you live in that world all the time. Does it hurt? Yes it does.”

Foster’s assistant coaches, however, may not be so fortunate to determine their fate. While unable to reveal details, due to employment processes, Foster strongly hinted at imminent changes to his coaching team.

“I’m proud of the accountability levels I’ve heard from the players on their part, from my management. We’ve got an utter commitment and a clear plan about how we’re going to move forward,” Foster said.

“We are never happy when we don’t achieve what we want to. We understand that the fans aren’t happy but you have a promise that we’re looking forward to getting stuck into our work and play a game of rugby New Zealanders can be proud of.

“I’ve heard there does need to be some change for us to achieve that. Right now, I am working behind the scenes to achieve that. As soon as I can let you know a couple of changes, I will let you know.

“I’ve been through lots of tough processes and this one ain’t easy but this jersey demands we’re honest with each other. We’ve also got to be reflective and we’re not just reacting to sentiment out there unnecessarily; that we come up with a clear plan of how we want to play.

“When you make any change nothing is pleasant but our whole planning is about how can this team improve. I know I’m accountable. We’ve identified clear areas of change that the group feels we need and we’re going to instigate that.”

Sam Cane’s position as All Blacks captain has been widely scrutinised, with speculation veteran lock Sam Whitelock could replace him.

Cane’s retention in the role for the Rugby Championship, and Foster’s continued public backing, ensures the open side flanker’s leadership role appears safe.

“I believe in him as a person, as a leader,” Foster said. “The easiest thing to do when a series doesn’t go your way is to point the finger and blame and want peoples’ neck. I’ve got a lot of faith in Sam and the leadership group around him. We all know there’s a high degree of accountability when you put on an All Blacks jersey and we need to be better.”

Conjecture surrounding Foster’s future and that of his assistant coaches reduced the minor tweaks to the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship squad to a footnote.

Recalling Highlanders prop Ethan de Groot, who has lost 7kg since being dropped for the July series, and blindside Shannon Frizell for Blues prop Karl Tu’inukuafe and Chiefs loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula are unlikely to shake the foundations.

Responsibility ultimately remains on Foster’s shoulders to instigate an immediate form reversal in South Africa – a notion that shapes as a hugely challenging task. Results are the only means by which to quell ongoing demands for further change.

“I love the passion of our fans and I love the opinions. That is what it is. All I can assure people is the person I am and my role. I’m not here for any other reason other than to do my best for this team.

“Right now I can understand the frustration that we’ve lost a series. My job is to put perspective around that and to make sure we take the lessons and this All Blacks team comes out stronger. I want to be part of the solutions.

“Both tests away against South Africa couldn’t be harder in many respects but when your back is against the wall then this is a great place for the All Blacks to be. We’ve got to respond.

“We’re desperate to perform against South Africa but you have to be. It would be much nicer to hear us talk about a great performance over there than what we’re putting up with now.”

This story first appeared in the New Zealand Herald and was republished with permission.

Originally published as All Blacks coach finally speaks despite bizarre blackout request

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