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There are lots of reasons, obviously, why we all want the ABs to win this weekend, but my main one to be honest is Ian Foster.
That guy got dragged through the ringer, treated like utter crap from everyone, from fans to the Rugby Union itself, and he just carried on. Plugging away, keeping his head down, taking it all on the chin, and just trying to do his job. I mean he got slandered. Thumped verbally every which way but sideways. How he carried on is beyond me. Many wouldn’t have.
But he’s got clearly a couple of powerful things going for him, one, obviously a deep inner strength and calm, and two, the players love him. They love him and are loyal to him and want to win for him. They have a sense of duty I think to see him off in style and make him proud, to prove the naysayers wrong, to let him have his moment, to shut up all the vociferous critics.
So, for that reason alone, I hope they do it. I hope he gets to leave this World Cup a champion coach who won a World Cup under less than supportive conditions. An underdog who got to prove everyone wrong. A leader who had the backing of his team throughout, even when everyone else abandoned him.
And what a great final to do it in. A brilliant opponent, a neutral ground, a team we know we can beat, but a team that holds its own. It’s got it all going on, all the makings of a fantastic on field contest.
What I am pleased about is how much Fozzy’s mood has improved, how much he’s been clearly buoyed by the wins and the way the team’s playing. But not only that, the turnaround of the fans.
He said this week they’ve been so encouraged by all the positive feedback and messages they’re getting, he said how grateful they are to receive all the support – especially at this end of the tournament. And you can imagine, after four years of being slated as a loser, how good it must feel now to a) be proving people wrong, and b) have people back on board.
But he says the behind scenes support now is “phenomenal”. And to be fair, Kiwis do love a World Cup, and do tend to get amped about it as the final stages close in. I mean if you think back to the start of this, at the start of the pool matches, people were a bit blasé, there wasn’t the enthusiasm for it, there was mistrust the ABs could perform, there was disillusion with the way it was being run, there was internal scrapping and bitching. But now look at us. What a distant memory that will all be if they’re winners this weekend.
I hope those who wrote Foster off can find it in their hearts to apologise, I hope even the most boisterous of critics will make some sort of verbal recompense in terms of how they treated him. Although I wouldn’t bet on that. Fozzy says they’re playing for the country, which they are, but it’s a country that abandoned him and treated him pretty badly, so for that reason I hope they win Sunday and win big. If they don’t… I shudder to think how awful it will be for them.
But we have to remember how far they’ve come, how proud they’ve made us up until now, and that at the end of the day, Ian Foster is a human being who was just doing his job, the very best way he knew how. But if this final match is a loss, unfortunately all of it will mean nothing.
Everything rides on Sunday, and getting it done. So I hope for Fozzy's sake, they can.
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