Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Australia rivalry dead as respect dwindles

A treasured rivalry is dying and as contests between the All Blacks and Wallabies become increasingly less competitive, the relationship between the two is unravelling.

Mutual respect has been replaced by spite, animosity and ill-feeling. In a series which began with the discovery of a listening device in the All Blacks' team room, it's maybe apt to suggest a new era of Cold War has broken out.

Culturally the All Blacks and Wallabies could hardly be different. The All Blacks went to the World Cup last year with a goal to not only win it, but to steal hearts and minds in the process.

They are all about having respect for opponents, being grateful for the privilege they have been afforded and conducting themselves individually and collectively in a way that makes a nation proud.

Win or lose, for them it's about being graceful and dignified in both. They are neither saintly nor perfect in this ambition but they are at least committed to it and it's in this that they appear to be at odds with the Wallabies.

Test rugby is brutal and unapologetic but it is not without limits or acceptable codes by which all teams are bound. The Wallabies went beyond those limits in the capital and for 80 minutes they played without any sense that they cared about their obligations.

They didn't recognise or perhaps simply didn't care that they played well beyond the line of acceptable conduct. Their aggression was expressed in all the wrong places, all the wrong ways and could there have been a more tiresome sight than Dean Mumm verbally spraying everyone and anyone with whom he had a legitimate physical exchange?

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore couldn't win any courtesy from Romain Poite because he was deemed to be the man leading a team that had no respect for the game's standing or reputation and also because he wanted to voice his opinion at almost every decision.

Surprisingly, for someone who had so much to say on the field, it is believed his speech at the post-match function was barely a few words.

It's no wonder then that the playful if edgy banter between the respective coaches in the build up to Sydney has dried up.

In it's place has come serious and refuted allegations about the integrity of the second game being compromised by a supposed unsanctioned meeting between All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Poite.

Hansen says it never happened, but that he did meet assistant referee Jaco Peyper at the official's request to review a few discussion points that had emerged in Sydney.

Rather than express outrage at the allegation, Hansen chose to laugh it off, which is much the same approach the team has taken to the Wallabies' behaviour on the field.

They have refrained from being critical about the level of niggle they encountered in Wellington - choosing to park it under the general umbrella of expected and acceptable Bledisloe Cup activity.

"It's always a fine line between being too passive, being too aggressive and getting it spot on," said All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett. "We talk about that quite a bit, as a team, about how you have to be aggressive. There is no doubt about that, but I guess it is about making sure you channel that in the right direction."

There's no need for the All Blacks to be openly critical and inflame worsen what is already a bad relationship. They have inflicted enough damage with their performances these past two weeks and besides, they are clearly beginning to wonder whether there is any point in even trying to develop a relationship with the Wallabies at the moment.

Not while the Australians harbour little or no respect for the All Blacks, test rugby or the great rivalry that is the Bledisloe Cup.

- NZ Herald

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