All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is confident that his side are still making progress after suffering a 40-25 loss to France in their last game of the year.
New Zealand were under intense pressure to secure a result against the French after their previous loss to Ireland, but they fell well below their lofty standards as France ended their 14-game losing streak against the All Blacks.
The All Blacks looked dead and buried at half time as they trailed by 18 points, but they clawed their way back into the game by scoring three tries in the first 20 minutes of the second half, before France eventually regained control.
Foster was speaking to Stuff after New Zealand’s loss and argued that his side have still made progress over the course of the year, especially when compared to fellow southern hemisphere giants South Africa and Australia.
Ian Foster on the All Blacks’ season.
“There’s no denying the last two weeks were tough for us. We came across two very good teams at the end of our season and they played well,” Foster admitted.
“I thought our response tonight was much stronger and we got ourselves back into some key moments that we’ve got to grow from. If we had been able to apply a bit of pressure at the end of that third quarter I felt we could have had a really different picture.
“If you look at our year, how do I feel about the progress? We’ve played more tests than we’ve ever played, and we’ve won 12 out of 15. I think South Africa lost five tests, Australia lost seven. I know we get judged harshly, but we’re making progress.
“We’ve got a good base of players now, we’re growing, but we’re also learning some tough lessons at the end of this long season.”
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 20, 2021
The pressure is now on.
While New Zealand’s record of 12 wins and three losses this year certainly doesn’t look calamitous, when taking into account the opposition they faced and the record of previous All Blacks’ coaches it looks worse.
Foster’s winning record of just over 72 per cent from 21 matches is well behind both Steven Hansen’s (87 per cent) and Graham Henry’s (85 per cent) records, while he has also had plenty of matches against weak opposition during his time in charge.
Five of the All Black’s 12 wins this season came against countries ranked outside of the top 10, while they have suffered two consecutive losses in both 2021 and 2020, having last done so in 2011 before Foster took over.
The All Blacks signed Foster on a two-year deal after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but they extended that contract until the next World Cup back in August, a decision that now looks as if it may have been made prematurely.