After their first-ever loss on home soil to Ireland a few days ago, New Zealand’s bewildered Rugby Union team has switched its attention to the upcoming 2022 Rugby Championship, where they are the defending champions.
The All Blacks – and head coach Ian Foster in particular – have been savaged by their media and the majority of their fans since losing to Ireland. And with it, they also lost the series by two matches to one. The fact that this was the first time the All Blacks have ever lost a home series to Ireland made things worse.
So with the 2022 Rugby Championship starting on August 6th, where does this leave the New Zealand team? And what chance do they have of defending their title?
Northern Hemisphere Sides Are Improving
From an objective point of view, it’s fairly obvious that this New Zealand team isn’t as strong as it previously was. It’s also a fact that this Ireland team is probably one of the strongest in the nation’s rugby history. The series win in New Zealand saw the Irish take the number one ranking position in world rugby. And earlier in the year, Andy Farrell’s team ran the French close in the 2022 Six Nations championship. In short, it’s a good Irish team.
🔝 @IrishRugby move to No.1 following their historic series win over New Zealand
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) July 18, 2022
The French are also favorites with most of the best rugby betting sites to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Even some of Ireland’s most ardent fans would admit that a world number one ranking doesn’t mean they expect to beat France in the World Cup next year.
But it is further proof that the northern hemisphere teams are closing the gap on their southern hemisphere rivals. Even an underfire and underperforming England team have just beaten Australia 2-1 in Australia, and Wales ran the world champions South Africa close in their recent best of three series.
It looks like the gap in class between the two hemispheres is finally closing. And that’s down to a combination of the north improving, while the quality in the south has slightly diminished.
What has happened in New Zealand since the Series defeat to Ireland?
Taking all the above into account requires rational thinking. But even for a fair-minded nation of people like New Zealanders, they don’t do rational thinking when their national Rugby team is failing.
The All Blacks don’t do home series defeats. And when they – rarely – do, heads tend to roll. But with just over a year to go to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, it’s safe to assume the All Blacks’ hierarchy doesn’t want to change the manager or too many personnel on the coaching staff. So what have they done?
Ian Foster sacks John Plumtree and Brad Moar, both exceptionally good coaches in their own right. So they're the scapegoats. But the man in charge gets away scot free.
As its the head coach that makes the decisions, how did he get away with that?
— Brenden Nel (@BrendenNel) July 24, 2022
Well, in the eyes of many, they have copped out. Manager Ian Foster has lived to fight another day. But coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar have both paid with their jobs. This only seems to have stirred up even more vitriol against Foster, with many pointing the finger at him for the removal of the duo, claiming he made them scapegoats to save his skin.
Whoever removed Plumtree and Mooar isn’t relevant in the grand scheme of things. In the cold light of day, someone was always going to pay for the losses. And yes, while it looks harsh on them with Foster remaining in position, something was always going to give.
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What’s Next for New Zealand and Ian Foster?
Well, this is an interesting one. In the case of Ian Foster, when the gods have conspired to turn against you, it seems they really do. This year’s Rugby Championship sees New Zealand play both their matches against South Africa away from home. And just for good measure, they are the opening two fixtures of the 2022 competition.
Our squad for the 2022 LipovitanD Rugby Championship. pic.twitter.com/buA1m8iDz8
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 22, 2022
There are two ways of looking at this. On one hand, two defeats from two could see Foster departing as surely his position would be untenable with two losses. But on the flip side, if the All Blacks can bounce back with two wins, and then go on to win the rugby championship title, the series defeat to Ireland will be quickly forgotten.
The All Blacks start the competition away to South Africa in Mbombela on August 6th and then play them in Johannesburg seven days later. Full All Blacks fixtures are below:-
- South Africa v New Zealand – Aug 6th
- South Africa v New Zealand – Aug 13th
- New Zealand v Argentina – Aug 27th
- New Zealand v Argentina – Sept 4th
- Australia v New Zealand – Sept 15th
- New Zealand v Australia – Sept 24th
With just over a week to go until the start of the competition, there are no odds available. I expect to see the All Blacks as the betting favorites, but the gap in the odds between them and South Africa could be minimal.
|2022 Rugby Championship Winner Odds|
If pushed for a rugby pick, in a series that sees all four teams play six times, I can see New Zealand coming through as winners. There may be an odd hiccup along the way. But in general, the longer the competition, the more chance a stronger side has to win. And I think the All Blacks will prove too strong and will win the 2022 Rugby Championship.