Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Other sides still have lot of catch-up work to do

Team photo after winning the Bledisloe Cup in the second test match. Photo / Darren Taumata
Team photo after winning the Bledisloe Cup in the second test match. Photo / Darren Taumata

My big discussion point which has come out of these first two Bledisloe Cup tests for the All Blacks is the overwhelming gap New Zealand rugby has on the rest of the world.

At this point, if you make your way around supporters and people involved in the game as I did after the Wellington test and to a lesser extent Sydney, the only team mooted as having a possible chance of competing with the All Blacks at the moment is England.

In my mind that's a little ill-founded when you see what the All Blacks have done to Australia.

That was a great achievement by the English in winning three tests in Australia in June but they didn't thrash the Wallabies like the All Blacks have done recently.

Read into that what you want, but I don't think they have bridged the gap as much as England supporters think.

People older than me might have a different view, but I can't think of a better time for the game here following back-to-back World Cup victories and a record in home tests of 42 victories in a row.

It's about as healthy as it's ever been. The depth is incredible too. Anton Lienert-Brown is probably the fourth-ranked second-five in the country behind Sonny Bill Williams, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty, yet the 21-year-old did a brilliant job on debut and looked perfectly at home.

Another thing I am getting from supporters of the game here is the lack of a genuine contest, and that's certainly not a criticism of the All Blacks, who are playing brilliant and entertaining rugby.

It's just that the opposition just isn't good enough, and I question whether that is good for the game.

Wales had their moments in June, but haven't beaten New Zealand since 1953. Australia were well beaten and haven't had the Bledisloe Cup for 14 years.

South Africa are struggling - they have their internal problems with quota requirements - and more concerning is their recent poor on-field performances.

Both nations were way behind the Kiwi Super Rugby teams and both are battling to retain their best talent, with the Aussies forced to bring in their innovation of welcoming back eligible players from overseas. Argentina have never beaten the All Blacks.

The All Blacks are miles ahead of everyone else. That's brilliant to an extent, but I do like to see a decent contest - that's what keeps us engaged. It's not good when the prevailing attitude after an All Black test is, "well, that wasn't much of a game, was it?".

The All Blacks are doing their bit, the problem is the rest of the world isn't.

New Zealand rugby is in a unprecedented era of dominance, smashing records and with a winning percentage any sporting team in the world would love to emulate.

So what now have we to look forward to in the Rugby Championship? Australia have just received a couple of hidings and the other two semifinalists of the World Cup, the Pumas and the Springboks, could face the same outcome.

Over the next few weeks in my mind one thing is obvious, on current form I can't see the All Blacks losing for a very long time.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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