Bledisloe Cup 3
Australia vs New Zealand – Brisbane
Saturday, October 18
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is potentially a dead rubber match. The Rugby Championship is well and truly dusted with New Zealand deserved champions. Australia has emerged from the whole process in tatters surrounded by various off field media circuses.
Any match at this level between two top class international sides with a year to go before the World Cup is still a bonus for the teams involved, and ahead of a tough month in Europe for both New Zealand and Australia, this match will be useful preparation. The All Blacks will endeavour to get the second win over the Wallabies that they were unable to do in the opening match of the Rugby Championship in Sydney in August and thus erase the temporary blip of that match’s draw which denied them the Bledisloe Cup. The Wallabies on the other hand have everything to prove and everything to lose at the same time. The Australian public is seriously disenchanted with the team and its management and see the inevitable downward slide of the Wallabies first seen under Robbie Deans’ tenure and which Ewen McKenzie was supposed to fix. The off field media shenanigans are more reality TV than rugby and are seriously detracting from the business at hand – being one of the best international teams in world rugby.
Therefore one of two things will happen in Brisbane. The game will be poorly attended and a discordant and fractious Wallaby side will be made whipping boys by the All Blacks who no doubt are licking their lips at the potential score line. The second scenario is that a wounded Wallaby is a dangerous animal and the Australian public will rally to their team’s defence in these dark times, and as a result caution will be thrown to the wind as a team with everything to prove throws themselves into this fixture with an almost religious fanaticism that will not tolerate or concede defeat.
In my humble opinion, I can’t help feeling the former scenario may take precedence unless for some bizarre reason the All Blacks decide to take their foot off the gas for this match and try and avoid unnecessary injury ahead of their European safari in November. However under Steve Hansen’s tenure I very much doubt that New Zealand will treat this as a soft game. While not having the same stature of rivalry as Springbok/All Black clashes, there is still an important part of All Black psychology that dictates every contest with the Wallabies should emerge in a win for New Zealand. The All Blacks regard themselves as THE Representative of South Pacific Rugby and will brook no contenders. Furthermore the sight of the All Blacks lifting yet another piece of silverware is something their fans will demand.
Therefore expect a game which will be played at full intensity by both sides irrespective of the implications of the game in world standings. A win for Australia will boost their confidence as they board the plane to Europe and silence their critics and tone down the media circus surrounding the side. This will allow them to once more focus on the job at hand – preparation for next year’s World Cup and a punishing tour of Europe next month. For New Zealand anything less than an outright and convincing win is unacceptable and this game will be seen as a further example of the All Blacks’ world dominance. Of the two sides, I fully expect New Zealand to walk away comfortably with the spoils as much as I would like to see Australia regain the potential we know they are capable of. Either way this won’t be a dead rubber match and will definitely be worth watching.