Loose Pass: The future of Ian Foster, Worcester and Scottish Rugby

Loose Pass: The future of Ian Foster, Worcester and Scottish Rugby

This week we will be mainly looking at the future of Ian Foster, the future of the Premiership and the future of Scottish rugby…

Foster’s stay of execution

In a world currently full of imbalances and instability, there are bound to be those who fall or are pushed off their chosen path. As Loose Pass has repeatedly mentioned, the ongoing concussion lawsuit has the potential to damage the game’s finances and image beyond repair.

But even within the game, imbalances have disrupted things. New Zealandisolated from the world for the better part of a few years by a mixture of strategic choices by their union and the pandemic, went from first to fifth in the world in a matter of weeks after an unprecedented series of defeats.

Surely the coach had to leave? I mean, you have Scott Robertson, universally acclaimed, newly decorated and truly gifted at creating profitable instagram reels for Silverlake with these breakdancers, waiting in the wings. In the meantime, you have Foster looking tired, almost giving himself the vote of confidence notably absent from a number of his employer’s statements. The math is obvious, right?

Well, normally yes, but the history of New Zealand shows a pretty important lesson: you take the team into account.

Richie McCaw’s autobiography chapter in which he describes Graham Henry’s reappointment process, carried out against the backdrop of a crushing Rugby World Cup defeat to France and with Robbie Deans eager to turn the All Blacks into Crusaders, is instructive here.

Ultimately, McCaw knew both that the team had bought into Henry’s vision, culture, and identity, and that Henry had already laid out his plans for progression. He also believed that Henry’s willingness to engage with his players – an integral part of the culture he had fostered – weighed heavily in his favour.

Although there are many more people currently convinced that New Zealand rugby got it wrong (including one of our own columnists), it’s vital to remember that New Zealand have no moment played as a team that had lost confidence in its leadership. Even under excruciating pressure, Foster never looked like someone who was without a plan and closed off to his team.

Foster has hired an All Black team that might be the thinnest in terms of talent in some time. It also did so through a pandemic which probably had a more isolating effect on New Zealand than some other countries (except South Africa). His own union has helped cut him off from a crucial aspect of sub-international competition that the budding All Blacks clearly lack. They lost a series against what are clearly the best Irish team ever, and followed that up by drawing a two-Test series against the world champions. And the team sometimes seemed flat and tired.

But the team didn’t stop playing for their coach, and he didn’t stop working for them. And when it clicks, they are able to beat world rugby. Loose Pass believe New Zealand have made the right call and there is much more to come from this team than many suspect.

The circle of vultures

In the Premiership, a week ago it was the fate of the Wasps, 155, that caught our attention. It is now worcester, who seem to be in an even more gruesome financial situation. The Wasps negotiate with bondholders and financiers keen to ensure the club doesn’t go under for fear of losing their investment. Worcester negotiates with the tax authorities. It rarely ends well, and once the petitions have been served, it does not end slowly. The latest information suggests they have until August 31 to find their savior, a star item in short supply in the unbalanced world.

But these are two out of 13 clubs on the brink, with an economic shock potentially killing 15% of the English top flight. The rest are working under a new reduced salary cap, ever-stretched resources from a season that just doesn’t seem to be ending. Not a good start to the season for a league that was destined to expand and grow.

Scotland’s concussion problem

The moving account of Siobhan Cattigan’s parents, combined with the recent distancing of Cattigan’s teammates from a statement apparently made on their behalf about his care, has left Scottish Rugby Union looking like this that she could end up responsible for at least part of the blame for Cattigan’s death.

The Syndicate was portrayed as mean for much of the process, which probably isn’t entirely fair as there are most likely still a lot of details to emerge. Brain damage is increasingly documented, but how often, even in the current climate, does the truth only come to the fore when it’s too late?

This is just the latest episode of the brain-injured boulder crashing down the hill towards the game.

A separate class action is also being prepared against the union, led by former international striker Kieran Low and Glasgow striker John Shaw, over long-term brain health issues.

Scotland is not a rich rugby country; the consequences of both actions (Cattigan’s parents also intend to sue as they believe Scottish coaches failed to follow concussion protocols with their daughter) would be catastrophic for the union. Rugby, once again, is fighting fires on multiple fronts.

READ MORE: Premiership: Worcester Warriors set to enter administration – report

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