'The All Blacks pack has been dented': New forwards coach Jason Ryan takes control

‘The All Blacks pack has been dented’: New forwards coach Jason Ryan takes control

Jason Ryan was enjoying a cold beer in Fiji when All Blacks coach Ian Foster rang and asked if he fancied leaping into the rugby furnace.

Within days of Foster asking him to instil steel into the All Blacks’ pack after John Plumtree was sacked, Ryan resigned as forwards coach of the Crusaders and the Fijian national team.

Ryan, who had been in Fiji for the Pacific Nations Cup, says he had to seize the golden opportunity to help the All Blacks turn their fortunes around after the 2-1 series loss to Ireland.

Jason Ryan joined the All Blacks coaching staff after John Plumtree was sacked.  Credit: Ella Bates-Hermans

Ella Bates-Hermans/Stuff

Jason Ryan joined the All Blacks coaching staff after John Plumtree was sacked. Credit: Ella Bates-Hermans

But he also had to break the news to good friend and Crusaders boss Scott Robertson, the man who had helped tie a rocket Ryan’s coaching career.

Yes, Ryan said, it was initially a difficult conversation, but he received Robertson’s blessing:

“I am a loyal person. I care a lot,” Ryan said. “He has done a lot for me. But… he was really supportive which was all I wanted.”

This latest chapter in Foster’s rocky reign as All Blacks coach has come with a twist; if Robertson had been appointed coach in late 2019, instead of Foster, Ryan was guaranteed to be the man to guide the All Blacks pack.

Now Robertson is still at the Crusaders, while Ryan has been recruited by the person who convinced NZ Rugby he was a better option for the coveted national job after the 2019 World Cup.

New All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan says Crusaders coach Scott Robertson wished him all the best after he accepted his new role.

Hagen-Hopkins/Getty Images

New All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan says Crusaders coach Scott Robertson wished him all the best after he accepted his new role.

“We worked together for 12 years, so let’s not hide from that,” Ryan added in reference to Robertson. “We had a good chat and a good coffee. I wished me all the best, and it was a good moment.”

Asked if it was ironic it was Foster who got him the much-coveted job, Ryan said: “I am on the All Blacks ticket.”

Exiting the highly successful Crusaders for a sputtering All Blacks team which has lost four of its last five tests could be viewed as a gamble.

Ryan viewed it from a different perspective.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster looks on during an All Blacks training session at Hutt Recreation Ground in Wellington on Monday.

Hagen-Hopkins/Getty Images

All Blacks coach Ian Foster looks on during an All Blacks training session at Hutt Recreation Ground in Wellington on Monday.

“I will answer that, really clearly. It was a chance to coach my country. And it is a dream to always be an All Blacks forwards coach. I can’t wait to get into it.”

Rarely has the appointment of an assistant created so much interest. Foster was forced to act after Ireland shattered the All Blacks unbeaten record against them in New Zealand, and immediately ditched attack coach Brad Mooar and Plumtree.

Ryan, who previously worked under Robertson with Canterbury before he moved into the Crusaders set-up in 2017, is well regarded for his work ethic on and off the training paddock.

The fact he never played first-class rugby has also mattered little when charged with extracting the best out of star All Blacks players at the franchise.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson takes members of the Bromley School rugby team in Christchurch for a training on Monday.  Ross Fowler, the team's coach, won the training session at an auction for the Gut Foundation.

KAI SCHWOERER/Stuff

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson takes members of the Bromley School rugby team in Christchurch for a training on Monday. Ross Fowler, the team’s coach, won the training session at an auction for the Gut Foundation.

With Robertson in control, the team won six titles. And Ryan has clearly played a role in that.

Now, however, he must go to work without his mate by his side. Ryan must also pump confidence in the All Blacks’ pack ahead of the two tests against the Springboks on the high veldt next month.

Ireland exposed the All Blacks forwards with their rolling mauls, were more tenacious at the breakdown and rattled their set-pieces.

“I think everyone could see it. The boys were really disappointed,” Ryan stated. “There’s no hiding from it. The All Blacks pack has been detected. It really has been.

“We talked about it in the forwards meeting today. We really were, really honest. We have to be. And we have to get on with it.”

Ryan began his shift by discussing ways to stop the mauls, a tactic the Springboks will surely employ during the tests in Mbombela (August 7 NZT), and Johannesburg a week later.

Overloading players with information, however, would be a mistake.

“I have actually taken some stuff away and just given them two things,” Ryan noted.

“We have done a lot of work around our mauling stuff, obviously, and we have done a bit on our contact area there.

“Just getting to really understand what they are trying to achieve and what they are really trying to believe in, has been the big one.”

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