REALITY CHECK FOR THE ALL BLACKS – CAN THEY BOUNCE BACK?

Wales’ defeat to England in a World Cup friendly clash last Sunday is the only positive that the All Blacks can take from what was a shocker of a weekend. The Welsh defeat meant they stayed at the top of the rugby world rankings, though they did slip to 2nd for a few hours in the aftermath of their hammering by their Trans-Tasman rivals from Australia. The most points they have ever conceded against the Wallabies in a rugby union test match.

SHELLACKED

The scoreline in the end was 47-26. There were some mitigating circumstances as New Zealand were down to 14 men for the whole of the second half. Lock, Scott Barrett being sent off, and rightly so under current regulations for foul play. However, Australia had been the better team throughout the first half, just standard All Black magic had conjured up 2 tries to keep them in the contest. The Wallabies were always in control and ended the half 16-12 ahead and a man up. In the second half the hosts blitzed their Tasman neighbours with some scintillating rugby, taking full advantage of the extra personnel on the pitch, running in 5 tries in a historic victory. It was the first ever Bledisloe Cup match in Perth, maybe they will always want to play in Western Australia from now on!

PATCHY FORM

To be fair maybe this was coming for the All Blacks. Ever since their shock home loss (partly due to clueless rugby and dare I say complacency) to South Africa last year in Wellington, they have look vulnerable when put under pressure. They should have lost at Twickenham last November, bar a marginal referee decision, they did lose in Dublin as Ireland beat them for the first time on their home soil. This year they have looked distinctly average, they were fortunate to beat Argentina and were awful, by their standards, with so many basic errors, against South Africa and despite conceding a late try, were arguably lucky to escape with a draw. And now we are at, where we are at.

GETTING BACK ON TRACK A MUST

Last Saturday’s defeat may be the wake up call Steve Hansen’s men need. The battering by Australia, has now given their closest rivals a chance to win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 17 years, as they will come to Auckland full of confidence. The problem for the opposition though is, New Zealand (who have not won in their last 2 matches) hardly ever (and not at all under this current head coach) lose 2 matches on the bounce. Factor in they are playing at Fortress Eden Park, a place the All Blacks have not lost since 1994 and further to that the Australians have not won their since 1986!

With all that being said, it may therefore be worth taking a look at some betting promotions around the All Blacks winning their next fixture, if you are partial to a flutter, because losing 3 in a row for a nation that strives to be the best at all costs is unprecedented in the modern era.

STANDARD BEARERS

It can be a national disaster, in a sporting sense, when the iconic team that New Zealand is known by all over the world lose just 1 match. Whilst you wouldn’t call it a crisis at the moment, losing a 25+ year unbeaten streak at Eden Park this coming Saturday as well as seeing Michael Cheika’s men wrestle back the Bledisloe Cup, then full blown crisis mode will be set. Consider also that the Rugby World Cup is just around the corner next month and anything but victory in that competition will be seen as a failure, that is how high the standards and expectations are within the New Zealand Rugby Union.

CRISIS – WHAT CRISIS?

For me Saturday will see the return of the All Blacks we are used to seeing – power, precision, pace and skills executed under maximum pressure. The Australians will give their all, but like in 2015, when they came to New Zealand (Eden Park again) with the chance of leaving with the Bledisloe Cup they will find it just a step too far. That time it was a 41-13 win for the hosts, I don’t think it will be by that much but for me the home side will be victorious by 10-15 points, setting themselves up nicely for the World Cup, with just one warm up match against Tonga to come. Incidentally 2015 was also a World Cup year, which ended in a Trans-Tasman battle in the final (won by New Zealand). Maybe history will repeat itself again and the Australians have yet again given arguably the greatest sporting team in history the kick up the backside they needed after a drop in standards. Time will tell I suppose.

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