TOKYO (Reuters) – New Zealand rugby faces some big decisions in the wake of their World Cup semi-final defeat to England and while they have had so much success promoting from within it might be time to bring in a new voice as coach, former All Black Justin Marshall has said.
New Zealand had been seeking their third successive World Cup title in Japan but were bundled out by a rampant England in Saturday’s semi-final.
Head coach Steve Hansen is stepping down after the bronze medal match with Wales on Friday, while veterans Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and probably Sonny Bill Williams are all moving on.
Senior players Beauden Barrett, Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick also have agreements with New Zealand Rugby to take breaks away from the game before the 2023 World Cup in France.
“There are some big decisions with the new coach coming in and some senior players (leaving),” Marshall told Reuters. “But I don’t think we are in a massive transition zone … it’s business as usual.
“When I went through the team and looked at the players leaving and a new coach coming in, I didn’t think it was catastrophic. I thought, ‘this isn’t that bad’.
“New Zealand rugby is still in a good place.”
Marshall played a then-record 81 tests for the All Blacks at scrumhalf from 1995 until 2005, which included two unsuccessful Rugby World Cup campaigns in 1999 and 2003, and had five different head coaches.
There have been just two — Marshall’s last All Blacks coach Graham Henry and Hansen — in the last 15 years after an unparalleled run of success.
While the 46-year-old thought there was some merit to continuing New Zealand Rugby’s policy of promoting from within and appointing current assistant Ian Foster to succeed Hansen he also thought some fresh ideas might not be a bad thing.
“It’s the adage if it’s not broken do you risk fixing it?” he said at an event hosted by Rugby World Cup partner Land Rover in Tokyo. “Do we jump in and change what has been very good for us?
“We do have Ian Foster applying and he has been in that system. Or do we wipe the slate clean and get someone new in to work with the same players?
“I think there is maybe a chance here to freshen the players mentally. They have been under the same regime for three World Cups, it might be time to get someone new in.”
Marshall acknowledged that as the All Blacks’ goal was to win the Webb Ellis trophy for a fourth time, and third in succession, the 19-7 loss to England on Saturday would be considered a failure.
The team, however, had evolved to meet the challenges of tighter defences, bringing in dual pivots in Barrett and Richie Mo’unga, and still had a winning record of almost 85% since the last World Cup.
They were simply blown away by a better side on the day, he said.
“I was talking to (England’s 2003 World Cup winning captain) Martin Johnson … and I said to him after 15 minutes there is no part of my memory that has seen a team play like that in an opening exchange against the All Blacks,” he said.
“No team in the world would be able to stay with the team that is playing that well balanced, that tempo, that accuracy and efficiency on attack and defence.”
Marshall added that England would need a similar performance against South Africa on Saturday.
“Their challenge is to get the same place mentally and play the same style of rugby,” he said.
“If they can get there, then … they are overwhelming favourites to win the World Cup.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Jack Tarrant; Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)