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A generation of Australian men’s rugby hasn’t seen its national team lift one of its most hallowed trophies yet in their lives. The Bledisloe Cup – the Wallabies’ annual cup competition between their noisy neighbors across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand – used to be a relatively back-and-forth event that saw Australia pick a few titles off of its adversary throughout the years.
There’s little better in international rugby than a high-pressure rivalry test.
For this year’s edition of the Bledisloe Cup—the annual showdown between rugby powers New Zealand and Australia—the factors at hand can’t really be much bigger.
With the All Blacks and the Wallabies deadlocked (along with the other two Rugby Championship teams, South Africa and Argentina) at two wins and two losses apiece headed into the final two rounds of this year’s competition, truly any national team can push forward and win the 2022 edition the annual tournament.
But for New Zealand and Australia, their matchups will go deeper than trophies.
There’s a wealth of history in the most-played rivalry in international rugby, and even if neither team ends up holding The Rugby Championship title later this month, there will still be plenty of bragging rights to go around.
Here’s a peek at what to expect in this year’s Bledisloe Cup, held across two tests in Melbourne (on September 15) and Auckland (on September 24) and streamed live on FloRugby.
Bledisloe Cup: Overview
Named after Lord Bledisloe, the England-born former Governor-General of New Zealand, who donated the trophy to mark the official start to the competition in 1932. The honor is contested yearly between bitter Trans-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand in what’s usually a three-test series, shortened to two tests in Rugby World Cup years.
The All Blacks won that original three-test series in 1932 in the Land Down Under and have largely reigned supreme since, winning 49 of a possible 62 series played since then (the competition wasn’t played on an annual basis until 1982) including the past 19 times, with the Wallabies not triumphing over their neighbors in the competition since 2002.
2022 New Zealand All Blacks vs Australia – Bledisloe Cup, Game 2
Some of the finest players to grace a rugby pitch have made icons of themselves in New Zealand-Australia matches, such as in 2000 when late All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu scored a match-winning try in injury time in Sydney to cap off what some media members and journalists later dubbed “the greatest Test ever played.”
Still, a generation of Australian rugby players have grown up without knowing what it’s like to experience a Bledisloe Cup triumph—who has won two World Cup titles since the Wallabies last won a series against the All Blacks—as New Zealand has proven itself to largely be the dominant force of international rugby over the past two decades.
However, due to some recent and well-publicized cracks in the Kiwis armor, 2022’s edition of the competition could be Australia’s best chance in years, maybe even decades, to finally get over the hump once again against its noisy neighbor.
Current world rank: Fourth
Rugby Championship position: First
The lowdown: Things are starting to look up for New Zealand rugby right now. Of course, that sentence is very much relative—the All Blacks are still amid one of the worst runs of form in their history. They have not won consecutive matches since November of last year while on a slide of six defeats in nine tests, a shocking stretch for the national team.
New Zealand’s current position of fourth in the World Rugby Rankings would’ve been the worst in its history a month ago, until Argentina shockingly beat the All Blacks last month on their own turf for the first time ever to send them down to fifth temporarily.
Still, even after all of that adversity, and with a coach in Ian Foster that has critics breathing down his neck following just about every match, New Zealand is exactly where it wants to be right now in The Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks responded to the shock defeat to Los Pumas by pummeling the visitors in 53-3 bonus-point rout this past weekend, a result that—combined with Australia’s defeat to South Africa—saw New Zealand somehow stand alone at the top of the competition standings at 10 points through four games.
Current world rank: Eighth
Rugby Championship position: Second
The lowdown: Here’s a trivia question: When was the last time that Australia won both the Bledisloe Cup and the Tri Nations/Rugby Championship in the same year?
The answer to that is 2001, when World Cup-winning Wallaby fullback Matt Burke scored 32 of his country’s combined 52 points across the two tests to help Australia snatch both titles in a 29-26 thriller in September of that year.
Twenty-one years later, the Wallabies have a massive opportunity to repeat the feat, but they must remind themselves not to let critical point-scoring chances slip when they have them.
A prime example of that came just this past matchweek in the second test against South Africa, where the Wallabies were manhandled in a 24-8 Springboks win just a week after Australia pulled off a 25-17 victory of its own in Adelaide.
As the All Blacks rocketed their way to superstardom and worldwide recognition across much of the 21st century, Australia, while still a very talented top-tier rugby nation, never was able to upend the world-beating Kiwis for much of it.
Two decades since its last cup triumph, a golden opportunity has risen for Australia to take charge once again.
The stakes always are high in the Bledisloe Cup, of course, but with the added implication that the winner very well could bring home a Rugby Championship title, too – New Zealand holds a one-point lead over second-place Australia in the competition’s current table – there’s a lot more on the line than just pride in the South Pacific this month.
Wallabies Cup Woes
What the Wallabies haven’t done in that time frame, however, is finally get a Bledisloe Cup over their Trans-Tasman rivals.
The All Blacks have won every iteration of the annual rivalry over the past two decades, a reign of dominance from New Zealand that included 10 consecutive wins over Australia in all competitions from 2008-2010.