Ian Foster says a man “under the influence of something” accosted his wife, Leigh, and Football Ferns daughter, Michaela, while armed with a knife in Paris.
Yesterday it was revealed in the days before the All Blacks’ first game at the Rugby World Cup, the unsettling encounter unfolded near the team hotel, situated on the outskirts of the city, an area known for its less-than-savoury reputation. Fortunately, the pair escaped what was thought to be an attempted mugging unscathed, though the ordeal left them deeply shaken.
In a statement today, Foster confirmed the incident but said it did not “in any way” detract from their time in France, “which was positive overall”.
“Leigh and Michaela were walking to our team hotel from a nearby train station in the early evening when they were confronted by a young man with a knife. The man appeared to be under the influence of something.
“My family were able to defuse the situation calmly but firmly and the man left. Team security, which included local authorities, were made aware of this when Leigh and Michaela returned.”
While it remains unclear whether an official complaint was filed with the authorities, security concerns loomed large at the World Cup, and the All Blacks, like all 20 participating teams, were provided with substantial police protection throughout the tournament.
In response to the incident, All Blacks management issued a general warning to players and accompanying personnel, advising against venturing out alone after nightfall. Despite the off-field issues, Foster, who has now been succeeded by Scott Robertson as head coach, maintained a composed and consistent demeanour in front of the media during the tournament.
The All Blacks’ journey to the final included a remarkable 28-24 quarter-final victory over Ireland. After a comprehensive 44-6 semifinal win against Argentina, they eventually fell at the final hurdle, losing 12-11 to South Africa.
Despite the disappointments faced in his tenure, Foster, who was shortlisted for World Rugby’s coach of the year, maintained a dignified and measured approach. In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching final defeat, he expressed what he would miss most about his role, emphasising his love for watching the All Blacks play and the people he worked with.
Now officially unemployed, the offers for coaching positions are flowing in for Foster, who remains discreet and loyal, a testament to his appeal as a coach.
When discussing his plans, Foster said: “There are no secret plans. It may be my stubborn pride but I... didn’t want them [players] reading that I was talking to someone else... because I don’t think that’s conducive to a team environment. Technically I’ll get home and on the 1st of November be unemployed.”
Foster humorously added that his first priority upon returning home would be to mow his lawns, signifying a fresh start for the seasoned coach.
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