Winning Bledisloe Cup rated as "the pinnacle" in rugby

The Rugby Championship
by Iain Payten

Given it takes two victories over the All Blacks in a three-game series, winning the Bledisloe Cup represents the “pinnacle” of achievement in Test rugby.

Or so believes Wallabies halfback Will Genia, who said while the World Cup is obviously regarded as the biggest trophy up for grabs in rugby, the sheer difficulty involved in wrestling the Bledisloe Cup away from the All Blacks puts it in equal company.

Genia, who is preparing for the first game of the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday at ANZ Stadium, didn’t go so far as saying it was harder to win than the Webb Ellis Cup.

But history shows prior to New Zealand winning World Cups in 2011 and 2015, the three winners - Australia (1999), England (2003) and South Africa (2007) - won the title without facing New Zealand at all.

“I haven’t won a World Cup so I am not going to say its harder but for me, it’s the no. 1 priority,” Genia said. 

“They are the best team in the world for the last 15-20 years, they’re back-to-back World Cup winners, you have to beat them two times out of three to win it.

“For me that makes it incredibly difficult and also will make it incredibly special if we are fortunate enough to do it.

“I can only say from my point of view and I would have to say its the pinnacle. The World Cup is obviously up there but how often do you get to play the best team in the world and have to win two out of three to win a trophy.

“I have been trying for a while now. Really looking forward to another crack.”

The Wallabies haven’t won the Bledisloe Cup since 2002, but they drew one-all twice in 2004 and 2007 when it was still only a two-game series, and thus failed to reclaim it.

The Wallabies last won the Bledisloe in 2002. Photo: Getty ImagesSince it was made a best-of-three series in 2008, Australia have won five Tests and drawn twice from a total of 31 clashes, and only twice taken the series to a decider.

During that time, New Zealand have been utterly dominant worldwide - having lost just 15 of 140 Test matches overall. 

Only South Africa (six wins) has a better percentage return than the Wallabies. They're the only team to beat New Zealand more than once in a year (2009).

The stats point to Genia’s argument about the difficulty of beating New Zealand twice in a year, which even the legendary Wallabies team that held the Bledisloe Cup for five years between 1998 and 2002 did twice in that run (given they were nearly all two-game series).

The Wallabies go into 2018 with some level of cautious confidence, having beaten the All Blacks last start, in the dead rubber third Test in Brisbane last year, and having almost beaten the Kiwis in Dunedin in game two as well.

Asked what was required to beat New Zealand consistently, Genia said: “Intensity.”

“Making sure you are in their faces for the entire 80 minutes,” he continued.

“They’re a good team that if you give them an opportunity, if you give them a sniff, they take it, whether it is in defence or attack. Just being relentless in terms of the pressure you apply on them, with the ball and without the ball. 

“And just bringing that physicality as well. That was a big trademark of our game when we played them last year in Brisbane.”

The Wallabies’ strong performances in games one and two last year highlighted the importance of not starting slowly in game one in Sydney, Genia added.

Last year the Wallabies were down 54-6 before finishing at 54-34.

Genia said the Wallabies had not sought to take inspiration from watching the last two games, but instead looked to the lessons of the first defeat.

“Probably just the first one, more than the two because we were so poor. Particularly in that first half,” Genia said.

“Just addressing the issues we need to address so we don’t start so slowly and start so poorly.

“Playing a practice game probably helps … for a lot of us it would have been seven weeks since we finished in Super Rugby. So the opportunity to play and get some rust out, and just the fact we are physically in a lot better condition coming into this week than we were last year.”

The Wallabies host the All Blacks in the first Bledisoe on Saturday August 18, kicking off at 7.45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO, with the Wallaroos taking on the Black Ferns from 5:15pm AEST as well. Buy tickets here.