The chance to set a record for successive test victories has been within the All Blacks' grasp before.

Twice they sat on 17 straight wins, only to stumble at the cusp of history. They have reached that point again and are, justifiably, heavy favourites to create a world record tonight for a top-tier rugby nation in the test against Australia.

South Africa is the only other tier one country which has chalked up 17 wins in a row. The All Blacks are in the box seat to go one better this evening, though our neighbours have a habit of spoiling the party.

Under Ewen McKenzie, the Wallabies held the All Blacks to a 12-all draw at Sydney in August 2014 when the New Zealanders had been undefeated in 17 tests.


In 2012, when the All Blacks had spun together 16 wins on the trot, Australia upset expectations by holding their fancied opponents to an 18-all draw in Brisbane. And in Hong Kong six years ago, with the All Blacks at 15 and counting, the Australians sprung an October surprise by getting up 26 to 24.

Could they do it again? Possibly, but you wouldn't bet the house on the visitors. Still, the men in gold will not be running on to Eden Park simply to make up the numbers.

Michael Cheika's squad have had a forgettable year, but they know that with an ounce of luck and the right bounce of the ball they could pile misery on their neighbour.

The odds are very long. Australia has not tasted victory in New Zealand in 15 years. It has gone 19 tests without a win in front of an All Black home crowd. Their record at Eden Park is even more forlorn, where 30 years have passed since Australia last celebrated success.

The reality is the current All Blacks are very good and shrewdly coached, while the Australians have slipped since the Rugby World Cup a year ago when they reached the final.

On the field, the All Blacks have had a stellar run. Their list of spoils includes the Webb Ellis Trophy, the Freedom Cup for games against South Africa, the Dave Gallaher trophy for French tests, the Hillary Shield for beating England, the Rugby Championship award and the trans-Tasman prize, the Bledisloe Cup.

Off the paddock, the game has stumbled through a series of high profile missteps. When challenged to deal with a string of embarrassments and scandals, the game's administrators have failed to display the same adroitness that Kieran Read's group brings to the park.

Last week New Zealand Rugby said it was creating a panel to review the way the game deals with "respect and responsibility." This was code for the relationship of the sport to women, which came under scrutiny after the shabby Chiefs stripper episode, compounded by Aaron Smith's escapade at Christchurch airport.

The halfback is missing from the team. A week on from the NZR statement, there is no sign of the panel, or what to expect from a "thorough and transparent review." Smith, perhaps the world's best in his position, has been held accountable.

The union has yet to show the same accountability it owes everyone with a stake in the game. Cheika, an irascible figure, this week declared with typical Australian brashness "bring it on."

The All Blacks will surely oblige this evening and secure their 18th consecutive win. As for the union, it needs to do what it promised.