Rugby: New Zealand's dominance over Australia is not healthy

By Steve James

We need the Bledisloe Cup to glitter once again writes a rugby correspondent from the UK. Photo / Photosport
We need the Bledisloe Cup to glitter once again writes a rugby correspondent from the UK. Photo / Photosport

The man from the Daily Mail branded it the "Blandisloe Cup" because its result is becoming all too predictable. And that was before New Zealand had played Australia last Saturday.

As it was, New Zealand did not play particularly well in breaking the record for the number of consecutive Test victories, and there is a wider point to be made about New Zealand's standing at the top of the world game at the moment.

They are so far ahead right now that it is scary. England are second in the world behind them but the suspicion - it has to be a suspicion until the two teams meet, which sadly will not happen until 2018- is that even they are way behind.

Indeed over the weekend I was asked to select a team combining the two. I managed to squeeze four Englishmen in- Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph, Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje- but the truth is that probably only Farrell would make a significant difference.

Beauden Barrett could not hit a barn door on Saturday, so just imagine how many points the All Blacks would score with a goal kicker of Farrell's accuracy?

But, yes, the sharper point is that the New Zealand/Australia rivalry has become diluted. Even a nervy New Zealand still beat their trans-Tasman neighbours by 37-10 in Auckland. It was the third time this year they have beaten them comfortably. They have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.

Australia did beat the Kiwis in Sydney last year before the Rugby World Cup, but they have won just three matches in 29 since 2008. They have not won in New Zealand since 2001.

It is a damning record, exacerbated by talk of a general crisis in Australian rugby, with so many players plying their trades overseas, accusations recently from former players that the club game is being ignored and the Australian Rugby Union being in perennial debt.

The British and Irish Lions tours there provide occasional relief but the constant chasing of the filthy lucre by playing countless Tests- they play five this autumn in the northern hemisphere, with matches against Wales and England being outside the World Rugby window so that they are handsomely rewarded for showing up- is becoming unsustainable for both players and spectators.

A couple of weeks ago the Australians were in London for that strange Rugby Championship affair against Argentina at Twickenham (dreadful game and dreadful atmosphere). They went back home, on to Auckland and then a week on Saturday they will be in Cardiff for the start of those autumn internationals.

South African rugby is in no better state, with its quota system and even more players abroad. So now we are not talking about the difference between hemispheres, as has often been the case, but rather about the difference between New Zealand the rest of the world.

It is a worry.

Just as it is a worry that the Bledisloe Cup is so one-sided that, to provoke a reaction last weekend, the NZ Herald depicted Australia head coach Michael Cheika as a clown.

Please excuse the personal indulgence, but we cannot have this. The Bledisloe Cup means an awful lot to me.

Why? Well, with further apologies for a history lesson, it is actually named after Lord Bledisloe, who was the very first president of my hometown rugby club, Lydney, in Gloucestershire.

His original name was Charles Bathurst before being elevated to the peerage and taking the name Bledisloe after an Anglo-Saxon hamlet in the Lydney area.

He presented the cup in 1931 while governor-general of New Zealand between 1930 and 1935 before returning to the family estate, which sweeps around a huge mansion house in the deer park between the village of Aylburton and the town of Lydney.

It is not just the Australians who want the Bledisloe to recapture its lustre.

Steve James is a rugby correspondent for the Telegraph in London

- Daily Telegraph UK

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 31 Mar 2017 12:45:56 Processing Time: 903ms