Rugby

While Final Bledisloe Match is a Dead Rubber, it Matters A Lot For Australian Rugby

While Final Bledisloe Match is a Dead Rubber, it Matters A Lot For Australian Rugby

New Zealand are 2020 Bledisloe Cup winners – there’s nothing Australia can do about that.

The 16-16, 27-7 and 43-5 results in favour of the All Blacks mean they’ve retained the trophy for the 18th time in a row – a seriously impressive feat for a nation already among the game’s greats.

And that means this Saturday’s final clash between the nations is a dead rubber, with only pride up for grabs.

There’s certainly a lot of that on the line for Australia.

The Wallabies’ 43-5 defeat in Sydney at the weekend is one of the most embarrassing in the country’s rich rugby history. There were 25,689 fans in attendance at ANZ Stadium to watch that battering.

And it’s brought up some serious questions about their policy on overseas-based players being eligible to play for the country.

Australia have operated a historic policy of only allowing players to represent the Wallabies if they played for an Australian team in the Super Rugby competition.

The creation of Giteau’s Law enabled key overseas players to be eligible for selection, with criteria under the new law being players having a minimum of 60 Test caps for Australia and a minimum of seven seasons at Super Rugby level.

But even with the introduction of Giteau’s Law in 2015 and the recent change to allow two players who haven’t met the above criteria to be selected, Australia are still going into these Bledisloe Cup matches with one hand tied behind their back.

So Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has been up against it of late and will have to play with the cards he’s been dealt in Saturday’s final game – one you can bet on with Rugby Union odds.

It’s not been a Bledisloe campaign to remember, but there’s one final opportunity for Australia to restore some pride and take the discussion away from the players not in the squad and move it to those who are in it.

It will be different challenge for them as New Zealand assistant coach John Plumtree has already revealed that they may make a number of selection changes.

It’s expected the All Blacks will give some game time to those who haven’t managed much already, with the likes of Du’Plessis Kirifi and Peter Umaga-Jensen lined up for selection.

So that should give Australia a better opportunity to improve their performance and, crucially, improve their result.

For a nation with the history of Australia it really can’t afford to have too many days like the one they had on Saturday.

They managed just one try through Noah Lolesio on Saturday – one of few positives as it was the flyhalf’s Test debut.

But there was a serious gulf between the quality of both teams and New Zealand made them very aware of that with talent Richie Mo’unga, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Dane Coles, Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett all crossing the line.

For Australia, the scenario is simple – they must get better in every department and win.

If they do, it’ll be their first victory over New Zealand in five Bledisloe Cup matches.

But bigger than that, it could show their coach, players and fans that there is talent good enough to compete with their close rivals.

It could also show New Zealand that there is talent there capable of developing and rivalling them in the future.

The Kiwis are chasing down a winning record of 28 years of consecutive Bledisloe Cup wins, starting in 1951 and ending in 1978.

They are already 18 years down as mentioned and recent performances and results won’t dampen their hopes of winning the next 10.

That said, the Cup was only contested 12 times during that period so New Zealand’s recent spell of dominance should be considered their best.

If the Aussies don’t win, it will inevitably lead to more discussion about Rugby Australia’s policy on players.

While the rest of the world do everything they can to have as strong a national side as possible, it may only be a matter of time before Australia ditch tradition and allow their coach access to all possible talent.

The thought of a full-strength Wallabies in every tournament they enter is scary – and one every Rugby Union fan wants to see.

Why? Because this is a rugby super power we’re talking about – one with two World Cups in the trophy cabinet and a current world ranking of six.

A country with rugby greats like John Eales, Nick Farr-Jones, Bob Dwyer and Rod Macqueen in their rich history.

All those who have contributed to Australia becoming what they are in rugby won’t be watching on happy as they come off second best to New Zealand in such embarrassing fashion.

So it absolutely cannot be underestimated how important Saturday could be for Australia moving forward.

The game means nothing for the Bledisloe Cup, but means an awful lot as Rugby Australia considers how to get their team back to winning ways on all fronts.

Rugby

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