Infotainment Factory: How inept Wallabies have brought down the All Blacks

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Friday, 23 November 2018

How inept Wallabies have brought down the All Blacks


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Ask Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle and she’ll tell you that now is not the time to push the panic button. That blowing the Wallabies up and starting again less than 10 months before the World Cup would only compound the obvious issues plaguing a national team that is no longer the pride of a nation.

Even a loss to the old enemy - led by an Australian and former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones - on Sunday morning (AEDT) is unlikely to change this view or to alter the outcome of a year-end review that Castle is determined to be guided by.

But across the ditch in New Zealand the sentiment is this: Australia stink so badly right now they’re putting the All Blacks’ world dominance at risk.

It’s the ultimate insult and it should be a giant flashing red light of alarm.

The Wallabies have not won a Bledisloe Cup for 16 years.

When last they did, George Gregan hoisting aloft one of rugby’s most coveted prizes in 2002, John Howard was the prime minister.

In the 16-year drought since, the Wallabies have more often than not been competitive. Almost always they have come up against a side that has rightful claims to the tag of  ‘the most dominant team in world sport’ and at times the Wallabies have given them a series that is more closely matched than New Zealand could find against anyone else.

Not once has that been the case in the years since they squared off in the 2015 World Cup final.

That tournament was dominated by the southern hemisphere nations with South Africa and Argentina joining the finalists as the last four teams alive.

A resurgent Springboks side currently ranked fifth looks the best chance of giving the pointy end of the World Cup a southern flavour in Japan next year but for the sixth-ranked Wallabies and the ninth ranked Pumas a slide into mediocrity and perhaps even irrelevance doesn’t yet look to be at its end.

All Blacks 'vulnerable' after shock defeat

Meanwhile Ireland, Wales and England are surging into the frame and the All Blacks are looking like mere mortals.

Undefeated end of season tours of Europe have become the norm for Steve Hansen’s all-conquering Kiwi side but if not for a somewhat controversial one-point win over the Poms a fortnight ago they’d be travelling to Italy this weekend in a mini-crisis after copping two losses on the bounce.

It’s a slide in form that has also featured a loss on home soil to South Africa in September and the navel gazing has started in earnest.

And one of the most plausible explanations for the All Blacks’ worrying trendline is their lack of competitive fixtures in The Rugby Championship.

For that the Wallabies are, probably correctly, copping the blame.

In his comment piece for the New Zealand Herald after the All Blacks’ loss to Ireland last weekend, touring rugby journalist Gregor Paul pointed the finger firmly and directly when summarising his thoughts on New Zealand’s new, less dominant position in the rugby world.

While also crediting the “rise and rise of Ireland” and “vanity-led purchasing power of French clubs” who take some of New Zealand’s best players while they’re still in their prime, Paul argued that the frequency of one-sided clashes with the Wallabies had softened the All Blacks up.

“There just hasn't been enough demanded of the All Blacks in their bread and butter business,” Paul wrote.

“Since 2016, New Zealand haven't been challenged enough in the Rugby Championship to have fully learned the art of playing high pressure rugby where taking chances is the be all and end all.

“Mistakes haven't been punished as fiercely as they are in the North and the fact the All Blacks have lost one Rugby Championship game in their last 18 is more a sign of the weakness of their opponents than it is of their quality.

“It's starting to feel like New Zealand have been living in a false economy and the weakest currency is the Bledisloe Cup.”

Assessments don’t get more brutal or frank but the scary thing for Castle, the Wallabies and Australia should be that Paul’s got it spot on.

The Wallabies have always taken care of Wales over the years but Michael Cheika’s side couldn’t even rely on a match-up with them to kickstart a tour that Castle had boldly declared would only be a “pass” if all three games were won.

Had they lost against Italy on the weekend, the opposite would be on the cards and Cheika would have faced the loudest calls yet for his sacking.

A coach of Australia’s national rugby team shouldn’t be able to bank on a win against the Azzuri to save him but that’s the current state of play with one remaining match in 2018 to salvage something more before Rugby Australia’s review.

Anything less than a win over Eddie Jones and England and this tour, along with the rest of 2018, must be written off as a dismal, miserable failure.

And if the status quo remains you could excuse the northern hemisphere teams for licking their lips with the prospect of another season of limp opposition preparing the once all-conquering All Blacks for possible failure on the biggest stage.

Ask Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle and she’ll tell you that now is not the time to push the panic button. That blowing the Wallabies up and starting again less than 10 months before the World Cup would only compound the obvious issues plaguing a national team that is no longer the pride of a nation.

Even a loss to the old enemy - led by an Australian and former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones - on Sunday morning (AEDT) is unlikely to change this view or to alter the outcome of a year-end review that Castle is determined to be guided by.

But across the ditch in New Zealand the sentiment is this: Australia stink so badly right now they’re putting the All Blacks’ world dominance at risk.

It’s the ultimate insult and it should be a giant flashing red light of alarm.

The Wallabies have not won a Bledisloe Cup for 16 years.

When last they did, George Gregan hoisting aloft one of rugby’s most coveted prizes in 2002, John Howard was the prime minister.

In the 16-year drought since, the Wallabies have more often than not been competitive. Almost always they have come up against a side that has rightful claims to the tag of  ‘the most dominant team in world sport’ and at times the Wallabies have given them a series that is more closely matched than New Zealand could find against anyone else.

Not once has that been the case in the years since they squared off in the 2015 World Cup final.

That tournament was dominated by the southern hemisphere nations with South Africa and Argentina joining the finalists as the last four teams alive.

A resurgent Springboks side currently ranked fifth looks the best chance of giving the pointy end of the World Cup a southern flavour in Japan next year but for the sixth-ranked Wallabies and the ninth ranked Pumas a slide into mediocrity and perhaps even irrelevance doesn’t yet look to be at its end.

All Blacks 'vulnerable' after shock defeat

Meanwhile Ireland, Wales and England are surging into the frame and the All Blacks are looking like mere mortals.

Undefeated end of season tours of Europe have become the norm for Steve Hansen’s all-conquering Kiwi side but if not for a somewhat controversial one-point win over the Poms a fortnight ago they’d be travelling to Italy this weekend in a mini-crisis after copping two losses on the bounce.

It’s a slide in form that has also featured a loss on home soil to South Africa in September and the navel gazing has started in earnest.

And one of the most plausible explanations for the All Blacks’ worrying trendline is their lack of competitive fixtures in The Rugby Championship.

For that the Wallabies are, probably correctly, copping the blame.

In his comment piece for the New Zealand Herald after the All Blacks’ loss to Ireland last weekend, touring rugby journalist Gregor Paul pointed the finger firmly and directly when summarising his thoughts on New Zealand’s new, less dominant position in the rugby world.

While also crediting the “rise and rise of Ireland” and “vanity-led purchasing power of French clubs” who take some of New Zealand’s best players while they’re still in their prime, Paul argued that the frequency of one-sided clashes with the Wallabies had softened the All Blacks up.

“There just hasn't been enough demanded of the All Blacks in their bread and butter business,” Paul wrote.

“Since 2016, New Zealand haven't been challenged enough in the Rugby Championship to have fully learned the art of playing high pressure rugby where taking chances is the be all and end all.

“Mistakes haven't been punished as fiercely as they are in the North and the fact the All Blacks have lost one Rugby Championship game in their last 18 is more a sign of the weakness of their opponents than it is of their quality.

“It's starting to feel like New Zealand have been living in a false economy and the weakest currency is the Bledisloe Cup.”

Assessments don’t get more brutal or frank but the scary thing for Castle, the Wallabies and Australia should be that Paul’s got it spot on.

The Wallabies have always taken care of Wales over the years but Michael Cheika’s side couldn’t even rely on a match-up with them to kickstart a tour that Castle had boldly declared would only be a “pass” if all three games were won.

Had they lost against Italy on the weekend, the opposite would be on the cards and Cheika would have faced the loudest calls yet for his sacking.

A coach of Australia’s national rugby team shouldn’t be able to bank on a win against the Azzuri to save him but that’s the current state of play with one remaining match in 2018 to salvage something more before Rugby Australia’s review.

Anything less than a win over Eddie Jones and England and this tour, along with the rest of 2018, must be written off as a dismal, miserable failure.

And if the status quo remains you could excuse the northern hemisphere teams for licking their lips with the prospect of another season of limp opposition preparing the once all-conquering All Blacks for possible failure on the biggest stage.

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