WELLINGTON - New Zealand Rugby on Tuesday announced Scott "Razor" Robertson as the All Blacks coach from 2024, tapping him to lead a once all-conquering side now plagued by on and off-field woes.
Crusaders boss Robertson will take up one of the sport's most coveted jobs after the World Cup in France -- impressing selectors despite questions over his lack of pedigree at the international level.
"It's a job that comes with huge responsibility, but I'm excited by the opportunity to make a contribution to the legacy of the black jersey," the 48-year-old said.
Robertson unsuccessfully applied for the job in 2019, and said he had left no stone unturned this time.
"I have been preparing for the interview for the last three weeks, making sure I had everything covered," he said.
"I think my wife Jane knows the slides off by heart."
Robertson played 23 Tests for the All Blacks between 1998 and 2002, but said coaching them was "in some ways" more significant.
"Ask me that before the first Test match," he said.
The messy recruitment process has angered incumbent coach Ian Foster, who urged New Zealand rugby to hold off until the World Cup was finished because it would be too distracting.
Robertson was chosen ahead of current Japan coach Jamie Joseph, and has been contracted through to the end of the 2027 World Cup in Australia.
New Zealand Rugby praised Robertson's unparalleled success at the domestic level and his reputation for coaching innovation.
"There are a number of quality coaches that New Zealand has produced in recent times, but for the things we are looking for in a candidate, 'Razor' is a compelling choice," chief executive Mark Robinson said.
"We're delighted he's bringing, we believe, a fresh set of eyes, huge energy and a deep understanding of our system."
He will replace Foster, whose troubled tenure has coincided with the team tumbling to third in the world rankings following a series defeat to Ireland, and a first-ever loss to Argentina at home.
It has been a rare period of upheaval for the three-time World Cup winners who crashed out of the 2019 tournament in Japan in the semi-finals.
- 'Certainly' the best -
Robertson has led New Zealand's domestic Canterbury Crusaders side to six Super Rugby titles since 2017, but has never coached a senior national team.
Many of New Zealand's most successful former coaches, such as Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, worked overseas before entering the All Blacks setup.
The Crusaders benefit from one of the most fertile rugby nurseries on the planet, and some pundits have questioned whether Robertson's influence has been overstated.
Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read came to his defence earlier this year, saying Robertson was "certainly" the best coach in the country.
Robertson is seen as something of a maverick within New Zealand rugby circles and is renowned for his breakdancing celebrations.
- Enormous pressure -
New Zealand Rugby took the unusual step of starting the recruitment process well before Foster's contract expired, widely seen as an attempt to stop international sides from poaching leading contenders.
Foster has been under enormous pressure after a string of lacklustre results, and there was speculation last year that he would be sacked in favour of Robertson.
Foster rode out that storm with the backing of senior players, and will remain in charge until the end of this year's World Cup.
In a split with the governing body, Foster said the hunt for a new head coach created "uncertainty" within the current All Blacks setup and drew attention away from crucial tournament preparations.
"I felt the best thing for our team and for our entire management group was to have this process done after the Rugby World Cup," he said.
New Zealand kick off the World Cup in a blockbuster fixture against hosts France in September.