Monday 19 March 2018 / 08:22 AM

Wallabies: Bring on the 2017 Bledisloe Cup?

With another Bledisloe Cup series having effectively passed, it seems as if Australia has not only blown their chances for this year, but they have also possibly blown their chances for the next three seasons.

It’s a bold statement, I know, but lets have a look at it like this:

Next season, due to the World Cup, the Bledisloe will only be run over two games. The All Blacks need to win a single game to retain the Cup. It’s that simple for them.

For Australia to go out and win two do-or-die games in a row, with one being in New Zealand, that will be almost impossible.

The 2016 Bledisloe will see the All Blacks with home-field advantage. The Wallabies would have to win the game in Australia and at least one game in New Zealand to hoist the trophy.

Now I put it to you that the Wallabies’ next chance to win the Bledisloe Cup will be in 2017.

Before I start, here is a quick history lesson.

The last time the Wallabies won a Bledisloe match in New Zealand was in 2001, an era of Wallabies dominance coming off their 1999 World Cup win, and ahead of the 2003 World Cup where the Wallabies again had a very good run.

Just to refresh your memory, this was an era that included the likes of Chris Latham, George Gregan and a plethora of other greats.

However, the fact that this was a side in their prime was the main reason for the 12-year downfall that has followed.

The Wallabies really began to show signs of age after the 2003 World Cup and were unable to put together a Bledisloe-winning team throughout the decade.

Then there were the troubles the team had switching between captains, the controversial era of Kiwi coach Robbie Deans, and generally being unable to achieve any progress at all.

Now the Wallabies are going through a rebuilding phase.

They only have five players in the current squad who are over 30 years old, those being Matt Hodgson, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess and Scott Fardy.

These are players who are likely to be in the 2015 World Cup squad and most likely retire their international duties after this.

In the absence of Fardy and Hodgson, the Wallabies have a lot of depth in the backrow that will easily replace the pair.

The first name that comes to mind when thinking of a future Wallabies flanker for me is Angus Cottrell of the Western Force, who is only 25, and if brought along correctly could pair up with Michael Hooper in the 2016 international season.

Burgess is a player who is really past his prime at international level, and Nic White and Nick Phipps have already taken the reins.

Palu is currently 32 years old, but the depth at No.8 for the Wallabies is incredible, with Ben McCalman and Scott Higginbotham available as Palu’s backups.

Ashley-Cooper is 30, so we may or may not see another three years or so out of him.

But how does this relate to the Bledisloe, you ask?

Well, the All Blacks currently have 10 players over the age of 30, all who will most likely retire by the end of the 2016 season.

This includes the likes of Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane – players who have performed key roles in New Zealand’s 12 years of Bledisloe dominance.

This is a group of star players who have been working together and playing in the same international rugby team all the way from when they were rookies, through their prime and into their golden years.

But something as seemingly perfect as this will one day have to end – and it seems as if the 2017 Bledisloe will be around about that time.

When the 2017 series comes, the Wallabies will have many of their current youngsters reaching their prime.

Phipps and White will be 28 and 27 respectively, while Bernard Foley will be 27 and James Slipper will be 28.

Michael Hooper will be just coming into his prime at 25 years old, as will tyro locks Will Skelton, and Sam Carter who will be 27.

These are just a handful of current players who will have been playing together for a number of years before this time comes.

The bottom line is, the All Blacks’ reign of Bledisloe dominance seems to be just a few short years away, and Australia will soon have a great opportunity to take control of the competition. The Wallabies may have the chance to win the tournament a few years in a row – like in their early-2000s heyday – with a playing group as strong as the All Blacks’ current one.


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Luke Worthington

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