Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Pesky Aussies have ruined the pursuit of All Blacks history before

The All Blacks proved far too good for the Wallabies in two tests earlier in the season. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The All Blacks proved far too good for the Wallabies in two tests earlier in the season. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The All Blacks face three games that will determine how big a footprint they can make in rugby folklore.

Win the next three, and the All Blacks can look back on the last seven years as one of the greatest periods in not only rugby history but also sport, as their record stands comparison with any produced by the best international sides of any major code.

Since September 2009, they have played 93 tests, won 85, drawn two and lost six for a 91 per cent win ratio. They have won two World Cups, four Tri-Nations and Rugby Championships and recorded the first perfect season in professional history. They have been No 1 for the entire period and are unbeaten in New Zealand.

Sitting on 15 games without defeat, they will equal the world record for consecutive test victories if they can beat the Pumas in Argentina next weekend and the Springboks in Durban the week after. They will then have a chance to break that record of 17 games when they play the Wallabies at Eden Park on October 23.

It will give them one more powerful statistic to establish these last seven years as a phenomenal period.

Collecting records isn't what motivates these All Blacks but they understand winning is a byproduct of them performing well and keeps them on track to achieving their goal of being better each time they play.

When the All Blacks of 2012-15 were driven by the goal of becoming the most dominant side in history, they needed to win the World Cup to have certainty on whether they had achieved their goal or not.

They lost only three tests in the four years before the tournament - an incredible feat - but if they'd lost the final, or their semi, would they have been viewed in the same way?

Results so far this year suggest there is little for the All Blacks to fear. They put nearly 60 points on Argentina in Hamilton and almost 50 on the Springboks in Christchurch.

Sport can be unpredictable but if the All Blacks perform somewhere near their best in Buenos Aires and Durban, they should win.

It's still a big ask to win in Argentina and then again six days later in South Africa, but the really hard part is the third leg - the final Bledisloe Cup test.

That's the one the All Blacks have found the toughest in recent years - game No 10. The trip to Argentina and South Africa is demanding, the rugby brutal and they will have limited time to recover for the Wallabies.

In 2012, they played poorly to scramble an 18-18 draw. In 2013, they ran out of steam in the final 10 minutes allowing Australia to get uncomfortably close. And in 2014, in the stifling heat of Brisbane, they won 29-28 only when Colin Slade landed a conversion after the final whistle.

Playing at Eden Park, where they have not lost for 22 years, will help, but if there is a true pressure point in the quest to win 18 consecutive tests, it's that clash with Australia.

The Wallabies also have a nasty habit of playing at their best when the All Blacks have had this record on the line. In 2010, they beat the All Blacks 26-24 in the last minute in Hong Kong when New Zealand were on a 15-game unbeaten run. In 2012, when the All Blacks drew in Brisbane, they were on a 16-game run of victories and, while they played poorly that night, much of that was because Australia put them under pressure.

And it was Australia who ended the last great run in 2014, when the All Blacks went to Sydney for the first Rugby Championship game of the year having not lost in 16 tests. There was another draw that night (12-12) and the Wallabies, having been so easily beaten in the first two Bledisloe encounters this year, hardly need any extra incentive in Auckland.

Nobody should take three victories for granted but, should they succeed, thoughts will inevitably drift to the end-of-year tour. Another perfect season is a possibility, but only if the All Blacks perform near their optimum in the next seven tests.

All Blacks fixtures
Oct 2: v Argentina, Buenos Aires, 11.10am
Oct 9: v South Africa, Durban, 4.05am
Oct 22: v Australia, Eden Park, 7.35pm
Nov 5: v Ireland, Chicago, 11am
Nov 13: v Italy, Rome, 2am
Nov 20: v Ireland, Dublin, 5.30am
Nov 27: v France, Paris, 8am

- NZ Herald

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