Wallabies represent a real threat for the All Blacks
August 13, 2014
The All Blacks are ready to rumble once again © Getty Images
New Zealand have held the Bledisloe Cup for 12 years © Getty Images
I think the Australians represent a real threat for the All Blacks in Sydney this weekend, given their form in Super Rugby; not just New South Wales Waratahs, but the Brumbies as well. They have shown some good form this year, and you can throw Western Force in there as well. Australian rugby is on the rise, and they are coming into the Bledisloe Cup with a bit of confidence.
I've discussed the series with some of the players from my generation, and I know the Australians are desperate to get the Bledisloe Cup back - and this is the year the whole country is focusing on the real opportunity they sense to get it back. It's been a long time locked up in the New Zealand trophy cabinet.
But the All Blacks are still a world-class side; they're unbeaten in 17 Tests, and given where they've been, how they improved through that England series, and all the talk coming out of the camp, we are in for a hell of a game. The All Blacks' Test against South Africa at Ellis Park last year was brilliant, and I am expecting something similar on Saturday.
This is the biggest game the All Blacks will face outside the Rugby World Cup, and I think they should treat this like a World Cup final; if Australia win, it is all on for the Bledisloe. But also, given the importance of a possible world record for the All Blacks in consecutive victories, they shouldn't sweep that under the carpet or shy away from it. They need to step up; rather than go into their shell, they should look forward to it and treat it like a do-or-die, all-or-nothing Test match. Both teams have everything to play for, and I am expecting nothing short of a fantastic Test match.
If there is one trophy the All Blacks treasure, it is the Bledisloe Cup; and I am sure the Australians respect it as much. We're neighbours, Anzacs together, and it is a great piece of silverware, whoever holds it. The two teams have been in the top three in the world for a long, long time, and nothing has changed over the years in the intensity of Bledisloe contests.
We know the enormity of the task ahead: Ewen McKenzie%]
My fourth Test match was a Bledisloe Cup game in 1993. Coming off the three Tests we had played against the British & Irish Lions, the emotion surrounding winning the Cup back after it had been lost in 1992 was hit home to me. Back then it was easier to get hold of than it is now, as it was up for grabs in one-off Tests. Now in two or three matches a season, the challenger has to win two games to claim it.
The desire to get the cup back in 1993 was absolutely huge. We couldn't have asked for a tougher series to prepare us than the Lions gave us. It primed us and we were ready for the Aussies. Being a youngster, that Test at Carisbrook was important in hitting home to me just what winning the Bledisloe meant. The following year, we were on the receiving end in Sydney when the George Gregan tackle denied Jeff Wilson a try and we had to leave the cup there. But we got it back after the World Cup in 1995.
Then, in what was to be my final Test, at Westpac Stadium in Wellington 2000, I came off the bench, all hyped up and operating at a level where I was just running around.
Stephen Larkham reflects on his Bledisloe Cup memories%]
I'll never forget the penalty I gave away in the dying seconds of the game. I saw the ball was out of the back of the ruck and instinctively dived on it. Had I had the luxury of being on the field a lot longer, and having settled into the game, I would have realised it was a case of "defend, defend" and run the clock down. But because I had come off the bench, I was operating at a higher level and saw the ball loose: it was a stupid act that cost us the game and the cup.
It was something that was absolutely devastating, and to have to go through that and see John Eales step up and kick the goal was a very, very dark moment in my career. It was my last act as an All Black. The headlines weren't kind, and even to this day I get people walking up to me in the street saying they will never forgive me for giving that penalty away. That's the importance of the Bledisloe Cup. I still wake up in the middle of the night to say, "I wish I hadn't done that".
John Eales kicked the match-winning penalty in Wellington © Getty Images
John Eales was swamped by Wallabies team-mates to show how much Bledisloe victory means © Getty Images
Sometimes you can get a team talk from an unexpected source.
David Campese 'got under our skin slightly', Craig Dowd says © Getty Images
David Campese did that for us in 1996 in the first Tri Nations Test, played at Athletic Park in Wellington. He talked up how the Aussies were going to run around the All Blacks and wipe us off the park. He got under our skin slightly. The outcome of that was one of my more favourable Bledisloe Cup memories as we played near-on perfect with hardly any mistakes on a dreadful day.
The Bledisloe is going to be won up front, just like it always is. But Australia have a great backline; they always do.
For Australia to succeed, they need to have the all-important self-belief that they are capable. In past years, I don't think there has been the belief that they can come and take the Bledisloe ; but this year, I think for the first time in a long time there is more self-belief within the Australians, and knowing the Australian mentality they just won't give up.
They'll keep coming at you right until the 80th minute. Not only do the All Blacks have to weather the storm, they have to prepare themselves for a different Australian team coming at them. When I say different, these guys are not going to give up.
I remember the first game in 2000, the greatest game of them all when we won with Jonah Lomu tip-toeing down the sideline for the winning try. That after we had gone ballistic at the start of the game to lead 24-0 before the Aussies came back at us. It was unbelievable the way they never gave up.
They are hungry and there is a nation behind them saying, "Guys, it's time".
The Wallabies retained the Bledisloe Cup in 2000 © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Communication error please reload the page.
Michael Schumacher's son Mick is set to make the step of from karting to Formula 4 this year
Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe is set to miss the next four weeks with knee ligament damage, sources have told ESPN
Bernie Ecclestone has promised support for Formula One's three struggling teams to ensure at least 18 cars turn up on the grid at the opening round of the season
FA chairman Greg Dyke has offered to host a proposed live televised debate for all four FIFA presidency candidates at Wembley
Former-F1 driver Max Chilton has secured a seat with Nissan's LMP1 team in the World Endurance Series
He's always looked down on the competition, but the 6 feet 7 inch Stoke striker has now officially taken his place at the pinnacle of English football. Well, for heading at least
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
Greg Growden assesses the impact of Stephen Larkham's coaching on the Brumbies, and how he can boost the Wallabies for the Rugby World Cup
Despite James O'Connor's impressive return to Super Rugby for the Reds, Will Genia impressed the most to claim Australian Man of the Round honours
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
Tyson Fury moved closer to a shot at Wladimir Klitschko's WBO title with Christian Hammer's corner throwing in the towel after the eighth round at the O2 Arena
Sir Bobby Charlton thinks Louis van Gaal was "surprised by the enormity" of Manchester United when he took over as manager last summer
Chris Eubank Jr has called for a rematch with Billy Joe Saunders after stopping Dmitry Chudinov to claim the WBA 'interim' middleweight title at the O2 Arena in London
Brendan Rodgers hailed Philippe Coutinho as "a joy to watch" after the midfielder scored a spectacular winner against Manchester City and claimed it is "frightening" to think what the Brazilian could be worth
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Daniel Sturridge's fitness must be managed properly so that the striker "doesn't break"
Former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher marked his return to football punditry by coining a new name for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
We rewind to 2003 when Real Madrid brought a park attitude to their Champions League clash with Manchester United and played out a 4-3 thriller
The tale of the Jamaica bobsled team who triumphed against the odds at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics is embedded in pop culture more than 25 years on, writes Nick Atkin
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
In the latest edition of ESPN's Week in Words, Olivier Giroud gets emotional, Dimitar Berbatov is a bit smug, Arsene Wenger is hurting and Rory McIlroy is "p***** off"