All Blacks not so big in Japan and other talking points ahead of Bledisloe three

Alex Broun 00:05 26/10/2018
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The third Bledisloe Cup Test of the year, between the All Blacks and the Wallabies, is set down for this Saturday (kick off 10:00 UAE time) in the unfamiliar location of Yokohama in Japan – the venue for next year’s Rugby World Cup final.

The game ended up in Japan as New Zealand decided to move the third match to help them get in some acclimatization ahead of the global showpiece.

They also were (justifiably) confident that they would have retained the Bledisloe after two matches so home ground advantage would not be required in the finale.

Here are our talking points ahead of the match:

Gulf in class

It’s a dead rubber but don’t expect the All Blacks to ease up, and even if they did they’d still win comfortably. You know the All Blacks are in control when they start to pity the Wallabies.

Both coach Steve Hansen and flyhalf Beauden Barrett have been desperately trying to talk up the Australians pre-game.

Hansen in a bizarre comparison likened Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to no less than the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

While Barrett, referencing Australia’s (albeit impressive) fightback against Argentina – when they came back from 24-points down at half time – said the Wallabies have turned the corner.

Which exact corner that may be is anyone’s guess, perhaps from oblivion to also-ran?

“We always get a confident Australia, there’s no doubt about that,” said Barrett.

“They’ve probably rediscovered that bit of belief that may have been missing. It was a great comeback, we acknowledge that – be we weren’t surprised to see them come back.

“We can’t take for granted that we’re going to just keep winning.”

The Wallabies did come back last year in Bledisloe 3, after losing the first two, but don’t expect a similar result on Saturday. You only need look at the team sheets to see the gulf in class.

The All Blacks have some huge matches coming up against England and Ireland and they will be using this hit-out as much needed match practice.

Records up for grabs

The New Zealand media is trying to keep supporters interested by hyping up the records that the All Blacks could break in Yokohama.

It’s a testament to how one-sided the series has been (38-13 in Sydney and 40-12 in Auckland) that New Zealand are a good chance to break no less than five all time Bledisloe Cup records.

They need to win by 29 points or more to set a new record for the biggest points differential in a series (currently +81, only set in 2016).

In the same vein they need 39 points to set a new record for most team points scored in a series, which is currently 116 (scored in four games in 2010). If they do that they’ll probably score the five tries to make it the most tries scored in a series (currently 16 in 1972).

In terms of individual records Beauden Barrett needs just 12 points to break Dan Carter’s record for most points in a series (54, set in 2009), and Barrett needs just one try to set a new mark for most tries scored in a series (he’s currently tied on five with Ben Smith in 2013).

At least there’s something at stake.

Lack of interest

When one side wins a two-sided sporting contest for 16 straight years the sporting public tend to tune out, and that is what has happened with the Bledisloe.

Even though they are one of the top sporting teams on the planet, their biggest fans still want to see a contest – and that is not something they have got against the Wallabies, for some time (see above).

The home Bledisloe Tests for the All Blacks are sold out but ticket sales have been declining in Australia steadily over the last decade. A proud sporting nation Australians don’t like to watch their countrymen lose.

A similar lack of interest has transferred to Japan where the 72,000 capacity Nissan Stadium is set to be half full by kick-off.

The All Blacks play Japan in nearby Tokyo on November 3 and it seems local fans are far more interested in supporting the home team than watching a Bledisloe cake walk. Hard to blame them.

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