New All Blacks coach keen to cast off Hansen’s shadow

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Colleagues say new All Blacks coach Ian Foster possesses “a real rugby brain” and believe he will have no problem emerging from predecessor Steve Hansen’s considerable shadow.

The 54-year-old, who worked under Hansen for eight years, was a surprise selection when he joined the newly crowned world champions in late 2011 as an assistant coach.

At the time, he had been in charge of Waikato Chiefs for eight years and their best result was a losing appearance in the Super Rugby 2009 final.

The lack of success was highlighted when Dave Rennie, now with the Wallabies, took over at the Chiefs after his departure and won back-to-back titles.

Prior to that, former fly-half Foster worked his way through the coaching ranks with Waikato and helped guide the junior All Blacks to a 16-match unbeaten streak.

It was a modest record but Duane Monkley, who worked with Foster at Waikato, said Hansen saw something in the driven, quietly determined character.

“We’re all wired differently, and being a first five-eighth (fly-half), Fozzie had a real brain for how the game is to be played, and how the game evolves,” Monkley told Stuff this week.

“He’s very very smart, very very clever. Obviously that’s why Steve Hansen picked him to be his assistant.”

Foster helped Hansen achieve a winning record of almost 90 per cent with the All Blacks but New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson said it was time for him to step up.

“We needed to understand that he had an ability to become his own man, to stamp his own mark in this environment,” he said.

“He’s clearly done that through the (selection) process.”