New Zealand Rugby fails diversity test - Bidwell

9:40 am on 18 December 2019

Opinion - So much for the diversity Sonny Bill Williams was calling for.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster (Top left), David Hill (Bottom Left), John Plumtree (Middle Bottom), Brad Mooar (Middle Top), Greg Feek (Top Right) and Scott McLeod (Bottom Right).

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster (Top left), David Hill (Bottom Left), John Plumtree (Middle Bottom), Brad Mooar (Middle Top), Greg Feek (Top Right) and Scott McLeod (Bottom Right). Photo: Photosport

Honestly, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) might want to think about a name change, because the blokes they're rolling out for All Blacks coaching jobs are neither representative of modern day New Zealand nor rugby in this country.

NZR's ineptitude means we've had a delay in actually announcing the support staff of new All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.

Brad Mooar, once of the Crusaders and now coaching in Wales, is meant to be on Foster's ticket but NZR weren't nimble enough to negotiate a settlement with Scarlets.

That led Mooar to describe himself as "torn'' between taking up NZR's offer or seeing out the two-year deal he's just started in Wales.

Surely, especially since Foster's appointment was more coronation that contestable process, NZR could have tidied that up weeks ago? How do you announce a head coach, and talk about how invigorating his new staff will be, without having signed said staff up?

Could this whole process be any more ham-fisted and unsatisfactory?

But let's assume NZR and Scarlets do come to an accommodation. That money will change hands for Mooar and that he will join Foster and co in due course.

First, who is Brad Mooar? Sure you can look him up and rattle off the fact he's coached the Christchurch club and Southland and worked for Scott Robertson at the Crusaders, but who actually knows anything about him and how good he is at coaching?

He might well be a genius. Let's hope so, because NZR aren't so financially well off that they can be paying compensation to overseas clubs for coaches whose abilities are merely adequate.

NZR chairman Brent Impey talked of Foster's assistant coaches being a "diverse group of thinkers" who would refresh the All Blacks. It's reassuring to know their thinking will be diverse, although that's not quite what Sonny Bill was driving at.

If the well-circulated speculation is correct, Foster will be joined by John Plumtree, Mooar, Greg Feek, Scott McLeod and David Hill. All good traditional rugby men. Solid, dependable, diligent but not, for instance, representative of New Zealand rugby's strong Pacific identity.

Williams called for a coaching group that recognised the different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds of the players, but it's hard to say NZR have achieved that here. Nor even sought to.

No, they've stuck with what they know, rather than trying to reflect the playing populus. That's an interesting choice at a time when players such as Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara are increasingly finding their voice.

New Zealand Rugby chair Brent Impey.

NZR chairman Brent Impey. Photo: Photosport

Had Robertson, who appeared to be the only alternative to Foster, been named All Blacks head coach, then it's been reported Jason Ryan, Jason Holland and Leon MacDonald would have been among his assistants. Again, diverse is maybe not the word for them.

Rugby in New Zealand is not so successful that it can continue to snub, or at least take for granted, so many of those who play and support the game.

From junior to Super Rugby, Māori and Pacific Island players abound but they're not adequately represented in our administrative and coaching roles.

A lot's been said and written about Ian Foster, but he didn't appoint himself. In absolute fairness to him, he's a capable guy who's contributed a lot to rugby and will do a decent enough job.

Nor is this designed as an attack on Mooar or any of the other men who put their names in the hat to assist Foster or Robertson. The issue here is NZR.

Their performance simply hasn't been good enough. From not being able to get people to apply to be head coach, to how they appointed Foster and who his assistants will be, they really haven't done very well.

Never mind how inadequate the whole Crusaders name and logo thing was a few weeks ago as well.

New Zealanders love rugby and want to support it. But they want to be proud of it too and feel that it represents them and what they believe.

At a time when this country is trying to evolve and become more diverse and socially conscious, NZR sadly appears as conventional as ever.