The last time the Wallabies held up the Bledisloe Cup Facebook hadn’t even been invented, it would be another five years till Twitter was up and running and the iPhone was still a germ of an idea floating around in Steve Jobs’ head.
The last Wallabies captain to hold up the Bledisloe was the great George Gregan and when he did current captain Michael Hooper was still in primary school.
It’s incredible to imagine it now but that was the fifth year in a row that Australia had held on to the famous Cup and the pain and misery was all on the New Zealand side.
But since that day in 2002, the Wallabies’ Bledisloe campaigns have been all black. To underline New Zealand’s dominance they have only lost to Australia four times in the last decade.
So what do the Wallabies have to do to end 16 long years of misery and bring back the Bledisloe?
Play for 80 minutes
If the Wallabies are to win the series they must dictate every moment of the game from the first to the last.
As Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley commented during the week, one thing you know about the All Blacks is that they will play for the entire 80 minutes and if Australia lose concentration or take their foot off the pedal for one instant, they will pay for it.
You don’t need to go too far back to find an example of that.
With the Wallabies leading 29-28 with time almost up in Dunedin last year Beauden Barrett cut through the defence to score the winning try.
Another is the final Bledisloe of 2014 in Brisbane. The Wallabies led with time elapsed on the clock before a converted try to Malakai Fekitoa stole the game away.
The Wallabies can hold the ball through 15 superb phases but if they leave the 16th ruck unprotected you can be sure the All Blacks machine will pounce and run 90 metres in the other direction to score.
Australia simply have to play mistake free footy.
They’ve done it before – last October in Brisbane when they donned the indigenous jersey for the first time and came out winners 23-18.
As Gregan himself noted in the build-up if the Wallabies are to win they must be ruthless.
“It will take a relentless intensity and the ability to absorb and apply pressure,” he said, “and then when you’ve got them down you can’t let them get off the canvas, you’ve got to be ruthless.
“The All Blacks just don’t quit and find a way to win, so we need to do whatever it takes to find a way to win.”
And the Super Rugby, Rugby World Cup and Bledisloe Cup winning scrumhalf knows something about winning.
Win the first match
The Wallabies simply have to win the series opener.
If they fail to do that they head to New Zealand next weekend for game two at Eden Park, a venue the All Blacks have not been beaten at for 24 years.
There is a theory that the All Blacks don’t respond well to pressure but it is very rare that they have been placed under pressure, especially in the Bledisloe Cup.
Since the winning streak started in 2003 only twice have Australia won the first game – 2007 and 2015.
The last two seasons the Wallabies have been thrashed in the opening Bledisloe (54-34 and 42-8) to make the Cup’s fate a formality.
In both those matches the Wallabies started cold, trailing 32-3 at half time last season and an embarrassing 40-6 at the break in 2016.
To counter-act that this year the Wallabies played a well-attended internal trial – Cheika’s Choice against an Australian Super Rugby XV, so hopefully that will help them hit the ground running.
They need to.
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