It should come as no surprise to close followers of the ever-peculiar Australian sporting psyche that most of the casual chat blowing in from the west this week has been about by how many points the All Blacks will win Saturday night's Rugby Championship final.

And why would we expect anything but a smokescreen from a nation that likes to spontaneously combust at every given opportunity?

You may buy this talk if you like, but the great Australian underdog swindle is a sporting scam that is generations old and never gets tired. It has sucked in many an unsuspecting victim in the past, and there's no doubt it will happen again. This is a nation of men who like to punch unsuspecting sea creatures, and English cricketers. This is a nation of men who hail as their hero a murderous gangster with a penchant for wearing a kettle barbecue on his noggin.

New Zealand Herald rugby scribes Patrick McKendry and Gregor Paul discuss upcoming test match against the Wallabies.

There was that time when an Australian rugby player viciously attacked poor Richard Loe's elbow with his bare nose.

Advertisement

On another occasion, sensing their vulnerability to the seemingly unstoppable force that is Richie McCaw, the Wallabies called upon a man who would strike fear into the hearts of the most hardened pack of forwards. Yes, they got Quade Cooper to knee McCaw in the head. Oh! The humanity! So cruel can this mob be that even that most memorable George Gregan taunt of "four more years" was designed just to give the All Blacks hope.

And now they're up to their usual tricks: talking up the All Blacks publicly, feigning genuflection at the princely feet of the perennial number one side, all while scheming behind closed doors in the kind of scene that would make Blackadder blush. There is nothing new here. They've been up to the same old tricks for years. In fact, if anything, they're getting less original.

All Blacks star lock forward Brodie Retallick looks ahead to the Bledisloe test in Sydney having never been in a losing side against the the Wallabies.

How else do you explain the fact that both the backs coach and the first five-eighths have the same name? This may very well be a weekend at Bernie's but if so, which Bernie's?

If you're the kind of person who likes to find parallels with the present in rugby's history books, then look no further than the 1991 and 1999 seasons, when the Australians proved more than a handful for the All Blacks in the Sydney tests that immediately preceded the Rugby World Cup. In 1991 it was a 21-12 defeat and in 1999 it was 28-7.

Correct me if I'm wrong but the Wallabies would go on to win both World Cups.

Don't think for a second that they haven't thought of that. They hold on to all the wins, this mob; and put them in their deep pockets, out of reach of their short arms.

Oh, they'll know all right. Not that they like to show off. Australians are gracious types, capable of paying the most genuine of compliments to all who deign to dent their collective sporting pride, as the All Blacks have done for, well, I've lost track.

All Blacks centre Conrad Smith feels the team is going 'all right' but needs to step up again to match the physical Wallabies in Sydney. He says the backline needs to create more opportunities in the tests so far.

Needless to say the Bledisloe Cup is now at risk of being permanently scented by the distinctive hoppiness of a New Zealand lager, and that would be motivation enough for most right-thinking Australians to take their chance this weekend.

Advertisement

The great Australian midfielder Tim Horan used to say that drinking from the Bledisloe Cup was like standing in the face of a beer tsunami. Apparently, sipping from the big silver cup requires a man to hold his breath in the fashion of a Greek pearl diver until his face has been covered to brow height in foam.

Then, and only then, does the beer start to flow.

Old mate Timmy tells that story now, in hushed tones, around campfires, to primary school kids. It is as much a part of the lost history of Australia as Burke and Wills' expedition shopping list.

And here they go again, talking themselves down, throwing about the kind of compliments that would make Brad Haddin physically sick. And the worst part of it is this: they know they're a real chance against the All Blacks in Sydney this week, but victory would be all the sweeter for Mick Cheika's men if the knock- out blow is a sucker punch.