James McOnie - Will this be Fozzie's day of reckoning?

Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 July 2022, 6:01PM

The pitchforks have been dusted off and the torches are ready. The angry mob is figuratively preparing to storm NZ Rugby HQ and demand the head of All Blacks coach Ian Foster, aka Fozzie.

That's the mood on the street, on talkback radio and in WhatsApp chat groups around the nation, as the All Blacks face a winner-takes-all decider at Sky Stadium, the Wellington Cake Tin, on Saturday night. They face a talented Irish team with a humungous tight five.

The reckons have been damning.

"It's a muppet show led by Fozzie Bear," wrote one texter to the Alternative Commentary Collective's rugby commentary hotline.

"Fozzie-Wozzie has a mare," wrote another, as Ireland won the second test in a canter — their first test victory in New Zealand after 117 years of trying.

The Irish will feel the kind of confidence that you only get after having a few Guinnesses and nailing a karaoke version of Dirty Old Town by The Pogues. Yes, they benefitted from the red card that was dished out to "Accidental" Angus Ta'avao late in the first half. But as Murray Mexted would say, the "psychic energy" is with Ireland.

But what if Fozzie turns the Titanic around? What if he avoids the Irish-berg? What if he really is the King of the World?

This All Blacks team still has outrageous talent — some of it waiting in the wings. Is Saturday the time for Akira Ioane to stamp himself as a match-winning, multi-skilled test loosie?

Will the three Barrett brothers, who grew up on a dairy farm on the Pungarehu coast of Taranaki, bring that backyard brilliance to the big stage?

Can big Sam Whitelock, lineout savant and human llama, rise to Andes-like altitudes and snatch the treasure of the Emerald Green?

Before the second test, ex-Ireland first-five and ex-Crusaders coach Ronan O'Gara said Whitelock's absence, due to concussion, was worth 10 points to Ireland. Well, Ronan Keating said "life is a rollercoaster, you just gotta ride it". And a rollercoaster with Whitelock on it is one Fozzie desperately wants to ride.

Foster grew up in Tokoroa, his father was a church minister - he still has faith, and he was defiant about the second-test loss: "We didn't become a bad rugby team overnight," he said.

Having said that, the wheels on this bus have been wobbling for a few years. Doubt is creeping into the camp. The drums are beating for Razor. Some All Blacks players may well be thinking: "Perhaps the only one who could ever teach me WASN'T the son of a preacher man!"

This third test will have it all: drama, farmers and a llama. You wouldn't want to miss it.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

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