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Kiwi star slams ‘hurtful, ridiculous and ruthless’ critics, Campbell’s ex-AB role model and Thorn ‘stitch up’

The All Blacks left for a high-pressure tour of South Africa on Friday and senior players responded to what they believe is a hurtful response to the Ireland series defeat.

Ian Foster and his team have been smashed from pillar to post by former players, fans and media as they slumped to fourth on the world rankings.

A two-match run against their biggest rival will pile further pressure on the team, but there is every chance it could have been even worse fronting up the Springboks at home.

Veteran No.9 Aaron Smith railed against “hurtful, ridiculous and ruthless” criticism of the team and coaching staff since the Ireland defeat. Two coaches were sacked in the aftermath but Foster survived and it appears he has the support of his players.

“The last two weeks there has definitely been a lot of outside noise,” Smith told reporters.

“As a group we had a good meeting on Monday, and a lot of it is around these are the right people in the room and us players have to do our part, get our stuff sorted, get our preparation right.

“There’s nothing better than the challenge of playing South Africa in South Africa, we know what’s coming, and it’s up to us as players to own our part of it and get our own stuff right.

“The pressure of wearing the black jersey, or coaching it, is big. We know that, and it’s every time. We’ve had a couple of results not go our way, but it wasn’t for lack of effort as a group. The two days in Wellington were positive steps towards what we’re going to put out in South Africa.

“I’ve got a lot of love for Fozzie (Foster) … you always feel for the men in the room. You know they care, and to see a lot of the bad stuff around him and Sam Cane, it’s hurtful and it’s actually gone… it’s ridiculous how ruthless it’s actually been.”

Smith was asked if the criticism had gone too far and replied: “I think we can all admit that.”

Beauden Barrett said he had been “hiding under a rock” since the Ireland reverse.

“It’s a unique challenge for this leadership group, coaching staff, and team,” BB said.

“We’ve got to remember it was just a three-game series, and we can’t search for too much. The answers will be in the room, in the circle and within this team.”

Barrett also had praise for Foster, as did Richie Mo’unga earlier in the week.

Beauden Barrett was left feeling sore and sorry against the All Blacks.

(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

“He’s a strong man, but he’s also not afraid to speak out and share how much it hurt last week and what he went through. It hurt us a lot as well, seeing our coach, our leader and us as players what we went through. We’re all in it together, and with Brad [Mooar] and [John Plumtree]having to move on as well, it all hurts.

“All we can do now is come together strongly, tightly, embrace this trip and I know our game will improve.”

Foster has taken on extra work as attack coach with Mooar’s sacking.

“It reminds me of Fozzie in the past,” Barrett said.

“It seems really natural to him. I think he’s already thrived in that role. It’s obviously a big role he’s in at the moment filling the head coach, taking the backs and the attack, but we’re right behind him.

“If anything, it’s about simplifying things rather than adding any layers to what we’re doing and ultimately, we’ll be out there playing with a free head, not a cluttered one. We’re all excited for the subtle shifts or changes that we’ll make.”

Jock’s Thorny stitch up

Australia’s team also left home on Friday, bound for Argentina and with far fewer dark clouds hanging over them despite also losing a home series 2-1, to England.

Reds fullback Jock Campbell, who is in line for a debut in the next three weeks, said his parents would be anxiously awaiting team news and ready to jump on a long-haul flight should he make the 23.

Earlier this year Campbell’s Reds coach Brad Thorn compared him to Maroons rugby league legend Darren Lockyer and ex-All Black Ben Smith.

Asked about the comparisons, Campbell laughed: “That was obviously a bit of a stitch up I think from Thorny but obviously a compliment to be named as similar to those type of players.

“Ben Smith is someone I’ve looked at a fair bit because we are quite similar – not the biggest, strongest, fastest, and stuff like that. So I think part of his game was just consistency, always making the right decisions. I look at a lot of players around the world and try and just snag you know, a few qualities that they have.”

He said he had studied New Zealand’s fullback roster closely.

Jock Campbell of the Reds istduring the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Queensland Reds and the Moana Pasifika at Suncorp Stadium on May 20, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Jock Campbell. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“They’ve got a couple there who do a lot of things really well. I watch them and and how they get their hands on the ball and what positions they put themselves in to make it easier for them to get good carries.”

Campbell was used at fullback and on the wing by Thorn and said he had no preference of position.

“The ability to play multiple positions only can strengthen your chance to get into sides like this and if you’re limited to one position it makes it a lot harder,” said Campbell.

“Consistency is a big part of my game. Doing the little things is what I pride myself on – in skills and stuff like that. So that’s my main focus at the moment. It’s just being consistent and being good in most areas.”

Moffett calls for Robinson resignation

Former NZR chief David Moffett says incumbent Mark Robinson should return from the Commonwealth Games and resign.

Earlier this week, legendary All Blacks coach Steve Hansen accused New Zealand Rugby of presiding over a series of failures and said the relationship between the All Blacks players and the board was “the worst it’s ever been”.

Moffett told radio on Friday the situation was “debilitating for everyone, but especially the fans.

” If Robinson cared about the fans he’d be here speaking directly to the fans and saying ‘these are the mistakes we’ve made, this is what we’re doing to correct it and I am going to be accountable’. “

NZR have opted to “say nothing” in response to Hansen’s comments, according to a leaked internal memo.

“How out of touch are these guys in New Zealand Rugby? Saying nothing is the least favourite option?” said Moffett, who also led the Australian rugby league and Welsh Rugby Union in his career.

“He should be back here, fronting the media, holding up his hand – not leaving it up to guys like Foster to front the media on this bloody shambles. It’s chaotic in there at the moment.

“Steve (Hansen) said that he might one day make a good CEO. Well the CEO of New Zealand Rugby is not the place to learn how to be a CEO. You have to hit the ground running and your judgement has to be spot on. But the worst piece of judgement at the moment is the guy refuses to front the media.”

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