New Zealand Rugby is attempting to move the game forward, not just by selecting a new All Blacks coach from outside their typical path, but also by researching potential legal reforms that they hope will speed up the game.
In 2023, the union deviated from their usual practice of choosing All Blacks head coaches who had previously been as assistants to their predecessors, instead hiring Scott Robertson directly from Super Rugby.
The coach won seven titles in as many years with the Crusaders and has high hopes for the defending Rugby World Cup silver medalists.
“We’re hugely excited for him,” New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson told SENZ. “He’s come into the role as we expected, with a big amount of energy and a fresh perspective on the game and how he wants to organize his campaigns, teams, and management teams. Our responsibility is to help him in any manner we can.
“We had a terrific session yesterday; we spent the day with some of his team and some of our team, planning out some different areas of the next few years while also looking back a little bit. It was fantastic to witness such attention to detail and passion.
“He’s a former player, a very proud player as we know. He’s connected amazingly well right across the game. He came in before Christmas to see our board and stakeholders and gave a really clear account of his vision there and since then he’s clocked in, we saw him down at the Black Clash recently, he genuinely loves being around people.
“We all know he’s got a really important job to do but he’s not lost sight of the fact that the role of All Blacks coach has a lot of scrutiny, and that this team’s got to connect with the fans and be accessible and visible but we want to make sure when the time comes, he has all the clear focus he needs to get on and do really well with the team as well.”
For the All Blacks to return to the mountain top of World Rugby, Robertson will have to prove the expansive style of play synonymous with New Zealand can still break down the toughest of modern defences.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby are on a quest of their own to try and speed the game up.
“I’m really heartened by the conversations since the World Cup,” Robinson said. “Look, at the World Cup don’t get me wrong, we saw some amazing rugby, didn’t we? Fantastic events, spectacles and some amazing rugby on the field.
“But, we saw some contests and some aspects of the game that I think everyone knew were incredibly frustrating for the fans. So, the question is how can we create – and I don’t like using this word around that game – this product that we can all be proud of more consistently, that gets us out of our seats more often, that people want to talk about for weeks and weeks afterward because it was such a great contest and such an amazing spectacle. That’s where we’re trying to work at the moment.
“The fans are telling us they want more tempo in the game, they want more ball movement, they want more wide sweeping sort of movements across the game, and we think we can create that product.
“We’re really adamant that the combination of feedback we’re getting from fans, coaches, players and our high performance people is all leading in a direction where we can make a really positive change for the game.”