Rugby-Robertson ready to ride wave of emotion with All Blacks

(Reuters) - An avid surfer, Scott Robertson knows a thing or two about riding waves but coaching the All Blacks may end up the most daunting of his career with a big wipe-out almost guaranteed without sustained success.

The job comes saddled with the expectations of a nation that lives and breathes the sport, and a public quick to demand heads roll when results fall short on the field - as current boss Ian Foster knows all too well.

Five months shy of the Rugby World Cup, Foster has already been deemed unfit to continue in the role after the global showpiece - even if the All Blacks win it.

Despite guiding New Zealand to both Rugby Championship titles since taking over in 2019, Foster lost public support after their first home series loss to Ireland and the first home test defeat to Argentina last year.

Robertson, however, has long enjoyed broad support, with an army of advocates having pushed for him to replace Foster during the team's 2022 slump.

The former test loose forward has known only success since taking over the Canterbury Crusaders in 2017, leading the country's most dominant Super Rugby franchise to six championships.

Mixing demanding on-field standards with emotional intelligence, Robertson is also known for his break-dancing celebrations after securing each Crusaders' championship trophy.

That crowd-pleasing wackiness makes a big change from the rather dour parade of suited men who have led the All Blacks for much of the past two decades.

"I'm really stoked," Robertson told reporters of his appointment on Tuesday.

"At times it felt like an election.

"People have got their opinions, and the ones that were positive would come up.

"I know not 100% of the crowd are going to be on your side. But we’re passionate, we’re in behind it, and it’s great that people have their thoughts, they pick their team, and they want the best for the country.

"You ride that. It’s part of who we are, our DNA, and I love it."


Robertson lost out to Foster when the job last came up in 2019 as Steve Hansen stepped down after the 2019 World Cup.

The All Blacks were eliminated in the semi-finals at that tournament and have been unable to recapture the all-conquering aura and fear factor they once held over teams.

That may all sound familiar to Robertson, who took over the Crusaders at a similarly low ebb and wasted no time in returning them to their former dominant standing.

He has never pulled that trick at international level but said he was unfazed about the gap on his CV.

The New Zealand Rugby panel that unanimously selected him was also untroubled by it.

"It was one of the questions," he said of his interview process.

"My answer was around continued success compared to international experience, and the balance of the two, and bringing that success with me, the formula, how I’ve done it, and the selection and relationships I’ve built.

"I’ve stayed in the fight, and here I am now."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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