Enough is enough - time to end the annual one-sided Bledisloe Cup farce

Alex Broun 17:03 19/08/2018
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Waisake Naholo dives over to compete another All Blacks thrashing of the Wallabies

Enough is enough. Time to end the one-sided farce that is the Bledisloe Cup.

After 16 years of non-competition it’s time to draw a line through the annual “clash” between the Wallabies and All Blacks.

Australia simply cannot match the world No1 New Zealand, not now, not in the foreseeable future, and to draw out this one sided thrash-a-thon just drags Australian rugby further and further into the mud.

Surely even the Kiwis are getting bored of this annual mismatch.

The Bledisloe Cup has always been dominated by New Zealand but over the last decade and a half that dominance has become farcical.

Since 1932 the Bledisoe has been “contested” 58 times with New Zealand winning on 46 occasions and Australia just 12.

The longest winning streak for Australia has been just five years, from 1998 to 2002, a period which featured many of the greatest players in Wallabies history: John Eales, Tim Horan, George Gregan, Toutai Kefu, Joe Roff, Jason Little, Stirling Mortlock, Stephen Larkham, David Wilson and Chris Latham.

An era during which Australia also claimed their second Rugby World Cup crown.

In contrast New Zealand’s current 16-year run only just eclipses their 13-year streak which stretched over 27 years from 1951-78.

The Bledisloe is already the most one-sided two-team sporting contest in the world and is made far worse by the fact that it is played across three Tests a year.

For Wallabies fans that’s three times the misery. For All Blacks fans three times the chance to gloat.

But even the increasingly strident New Zealand supporters are becoming more and more restrained as the Bledisloe increases in embarrassment levels year after year.

Indeed these days the All Blacks are trying to talk their opponents up in the hope of some kind of a contest, with coach Steve Hansen comically declaring the Wallabies as favourites for Bledisloe 1 this year.

Hansen may be a great coach but he is clearly not a good tipster as the Wallabies fell to a 38-13 shellacking, following on from their 42-8 and 54-34 drubbings in the corresponding fixture in the previous two years.

It is not that the Wallabies are that bad – they currently sit fifth on the World Rugby rankings – it is that the All Blacks are that good.

It’s hard to blame coach Michael Cheika, captain Michael Hooper or even Rugby Australia for this Bledisloe mess.

They are doing as well as they can.

The preparation for this year’s Bledisloe was meticulous with Cheika and his support staff turning over every stone in an effort to tame the All Blacks machine.

They even tried a well-attended inter-squad trial match to try and get the Wallabies match ready, which worked in the first half at least.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and her team also did a superb effort selling the game, even adding a double-header of the Black Ferns against the Wallaroos – to swell the crowd to an impressive 66,318.

If you are looking for someone to blame – blame Australian Rules and to a lesser extent rugby league.

Whereas in New Zealand – and Tonga, Samoa and even Fiji – most young boys grow up dreaming of becoming an All Black, in Australia they dream of playing for Collingwood or West Coast in the AFL.

Rugby has a very small talent pool to draw on with the game played only in wealthy private schools and a few public schools, with even the best of those players skimmed off the top by rugby league talent scouts who have 16 professional team rosters to fill where rugby has just four.

Australia simply cannot compete with New Zealand and the gap is only growing.

To be termed a sporting contest an event has to be just that – a contest.

The Bledisloe stopped being that over a decade ago and to continue it further is just like watching Roger Federer destroy a qualifier over and over again in the opening rounds of Wimbledon.

You can admire Fed’s majestic stroke play but even that soon loses appeal.

So what would it be replaced with?

Easy – add Japan and a Pacific Islands Lions side to the Rugby Championship and run a southern hemisphere “six nations”.

Each side plays each other side once – and if you must the Bledisloe Cup can be continued as part of that as a one-off match each year, like the Calcutta Cup in the Six Nations.

Making it a one-off also gives the chance of an upset which is nearly impossible in a three-match series.

The new “Southern Six Nations” would develop rugby in Japan and the Pacific Islands as well as giving more nations around the world a chance to see the great All Blacks live.

This would make five Test matches in the August-October window for the All Blacks, rather than six, and if they must add another then make it against the Springboks – a genuine opponent from another nation where rugby is king.

It would also be good news for Australian rugby.

Freed from the annual slaughter (and pressure) of the Bledisloe, the Wallabies could start to rebuild confidence and the crowds may start to return to watch a winning team.

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