Rugby fans in this country are lumbered with a perpetual dilemma.

We're an egalitarian nation with an elite team playing an egalitarian game. We're passionate about winning, but only to a point.

The shock (or was it?) loss to Ireland a few weeks back skittled an 18-test victorious run. Mercifully, the Irish ended this and, hopefully, the odious obsession rugby pundits now have with winning streaks.

Losing that match was not only great for those of us who claim Irish bloodlines; it was the releasing of a pressure valve.

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In fact, it was much like the literary device of comic relief, which is defined as "the inclusion of a humorous character, scene, or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension".

Thank you Ireland.

But of course, there's a little more to it. Some academics claim comic relief is a misnomer, and should in fact be "comic intensification". So, rather than providing relief, it concentrates the dramatic action.

Either way, it's tough at the top. A colleague recently told me the All Blacks' dominance was "ruining" rugby.

Thus, despite winning almost every game, the All Blacks just can't win.

Lose and their shortcomings are slammed, win and their shortcomings are slammed.

Sunday we play France in the final test of the year. It's a bittersweet moment on the rugby calendar.

On the one hand us Kiwis lament not having the excuse to grab a few lagers from the fridge and do nothing for 80 minutes - on the other, a rugby-less summer affords a reprieve from our national dilemma.

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