All Blacks dominance over Australia drains Bledisloe Cup of its prestige

The All Blacks are looking to win the trophy for a 20th successive year

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There was a time when Australia and New Zealand’s battle for the Bledisloe Cup was almost a de facto world championship but nearly two decades of All Blacks dominance has drained the trophy of much of its prestige.

The series’ relevance will again be tested this week as Ian Foster’s team look to seal the trophy for a 20th successive year by beating the Wallabies in Melbourne on Thursday.

The All Blacks’ stranglehold has long pained Australian fans who pine for the days when the world-beating Wallabies won five Bledisloes in succession from 1998-2002.

The Cup has since come to symbolise Australia’s decline as a rugby power as much as New Zealand’s strength. The narrative has changed slightly this year but not for any Australian improvement.

Dave Rennie’s Wallabies slumped to a record low of eighth in world rankings after an insipid 24-8 home defeat to South Africa in the last round of the Rugby Championship.

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The difference this year is that the All Blacks are also struggling, losing six of their last nine tests. France, Ireland, South Africa and Argentina have all taken turns to beat the three-times world champions in the past year.

Australia will strive to join their list of conquerors but in reality look no closer to winning back the Cup than at any time in the past 19 years.

Though New Zealand’s aura of invincibility may be lost for good, the All Blacks still cherish their domination of Australia.

Foster’s men are determined not to be the team that gives up the trophy and become the answer to a trivia question for decades to come.

The staff have brought past All Blacks champions into camp to provide inspiring words and cautionary tales.

Former World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick, who has known nothing but Bledisloe success, tuned in when former captain Richie McCaw addressed the team recently.

“When I first came into the team, the players like Richie, Dan (Carter) and Keven Mealamu, those guys kind of instilled how much it means to the team and showed us what it meant and the history,” 90-cap lock Retallick told reporters on Tuesday.

“And I guess as senior players, we’re passing that onto the newer guys.”

The younger players may feel the pressure more heavily than previous generations given the All Blacks have struggled to regenerate through the World Cup cycle even as global competition has stiffened.

Though the 53-3 demolition of Argentina in Hamilton in the last Rugby Championship round was ruthless, doubts linger about their strength a year out from the World Cup in France.

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The Wallabies may not provide much of a yardstick in that regard but retaining the Bledisloe Cup on Thursday would provide a boost for an All Blacks team still searching for belief and back-to-back wins in 2022.

“It’s about having real confidence in what we do,” Foster said on Tuesday. “We saw that in Hamilton and the key now is to see it again.”

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