Ian Foster sidestepped the chance to discuss his intention to apply for the All Blacks head coaching role and so it was Sonny Bill Williams who made the decisive statement with his view that the team would benefit from the inclusion of a Māori or Pacific Island mentor.
Williams was asked about Foster’s credentials and rather than endorse the All Blacks attack coach he instead opted to make a strong push for the inclusion of a Māori or Pacific Island coach within the All Blacks set-up.
Blues assistant Tana Umaga and successful Japan coach Jamie Joseph are two such figures, while Blues head coach Leon MacDonald has played for the New Zealand Māori, and Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger has Tahitian and Samoan heritage.
Dave Rennie, a man who Williams shares close ties with after they won two Super Rugby titles at the Chiefs, has Cook Islands heritage but he is thought to be close to signing on to replace Michael Cheika at the Wallabies.
Williams also appeared to brush off recent reports that suggested he would be joining the Sydney Roosters in a coaching capacity next year.
“When it comes to that there are going to be a few guys putting their heads up isn’t there? By a few reports I may have to put my hand up too because I’m stepping into coaching,” Williams said with a smile.
“Good luck to everyone who puts their hand up and tries to step into that role. There are a lot of coaches who will be leaving at the end of this year.
“One thing I would probably put to NZR is it would be good to see a Pacific Islander or Māori in the coaching system that would have a bit of influence because the way the game is going and is today, there’s a lot of Māori and Island boys that play for the All Blacks.
“I’m just thinking how can we get a lot more out of those boys. I know there’s a bit of space there for that growth.”
In regards to the heavy influence of Pacific Island and Māori players within the All Blacks, Williams was referring to Nepo Laulala, Ardie Savea, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor, Ofa Tuungafasi, Shannon Frizell, Patrick Tuipulotu and Rieko Ioane among others.
Asked to reveal his own sporting future, with reports also linking him to English Super League newcomers the Toronto Wolfpack, Williams said: “Soon bro, soon, we’re just trying to finalise that.”
While serving eight years as assistant coach, Foster has previously stated his keenness to succeed Steve Hansen next year.
With emotions still raw and the All Blacks focused on attempting to right some wrongs in their final World Cup match – their third and fourth playoff with Wales in Tokyo on Friday – Foster clearly felt this was not the right time to discuss his personal aspirations.
“I’ve already flagged the way I’ve been thinking before but I just want to keep saying right now I’m just excited about a World Cup,” Foster said as the All Blacks attempt to move through the healing process after their semifinal defeat to England.
“My whole goal is making sure we did the best that we can do at this World Cup. We’ve lost to England but the World Cup is not finished and I’ve just got to keep putting all my energy into that and what will happen after that will happen. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about that.”
Foster’s chances may have taken a hit at this tournament and he will face competition for Hansen’s role from Scott Robertson, who guided the Crusaders to three successive Super Rugby titles.
Warren Gatland is committed to the Chiefs next year and British and Irish Lions in 2021 but he could, potentially, apply for the position.
Other candidates could also apply with New Zealand Rugby likely to shoulder tap all potential contenders before making an appointment in December.