Supposedly, on the basis their Super Rugby teams failed to land a solitary victory against New Zealand opposition this year, Australian rugby is dying a not-so-slow death and the fight has been all but sucked out of the game across the Tasman.

That's not how things really are over there, however. The Wallabies, despite a difficult June series, where they lost to Scotland, and struggled past Fiji and Italy, are going to find a way to compete and trouble the All Blacks next month.

They have certainly already found a way to get under their skin, sending a little reminder that while the rivalry may appear to have lost some of its edge on the field, it continues to be ever spicier off it. The presence of former All Black Brad Thorn at a Wallabies training camp this week may be more about making the All Blacks feel a little uneasy than advancing the coaching education of the former lock.

The Wallabies can make a legitimate argument that Thorn, who is on Australia's coaching pathway, was invited in to observe and advance his understanding of how the national team sets itself up.


No-one can dispute that, yet it smells fishy, looks suspect and feels more like Thorn's presence was designed to make the All Blacks uneasy, because how else are they going to feel about seeing a former All Blacks legend, photographed in the enemy camp with a Wallaby on his jersey, just about the same place as he used to have a silver fern?

It's not as if Thorn, who so proudly represented the All Blacks between 2003-11, winning 59 caps, would have any desire to offer up any insights into the All Blacks. He's not that sort of bloke - he's built his reputation on his integrity and honesty, and he wouldn't walk into the Wallaby camp and data-dump secret intelligence that could prove invaluable to the Wallabies.

Besides, having last played for the All Blacks in 2011, he wouldn't have much in the way of current knowledge.

But even knowing that Thorn is highly unlikely to have offered a single word of insight into the All Blacks, his presence at the Newcastle training camp will have induced an uneasiness within the New Zealand coaching team in the same way the Wallabies would be curious to see someone such as their former captain, Nathan Sharpe, hanging around at All Blacks training.

No international rugby side likes to see one of their own disappear behind enemy lines. The All Blacks were wary when former coach Graham Henry finished up in 2011 and was then working with the Pumas in 2012.

They were equally cautious when former skills coach, Mick Byrne, who was with them from 2005-15, took the same role with the Wallabies last year.

It's a professional game these days and career opportunities arise wherever they do. Former test players and coaches follow the jobs, and there is industry-wide acceptance of that.

But that doesn't mean that former teams like seeing former players or coaches working for rivals.


They accept it, but don't enjoy it and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika - astute, driven and fiercely competitive - knows exactly what affect it will have had on the All Blacks, seeing Thorn in Wallabies coaching kit.

The Bledisloe Cup rivalry is far from dead. There is nothing but fight within the Wallabies and Cheika, who - by the extreme force of his will to succeed - is going to manage to inject a similar fire and belief within his players these next few weeks, while also doing what he can to unsettle the All Blacks.