Brodie Retallick Gerry Thornley: Uneasy lies New Zealand’s World Cup crown

Brodie Retallick My dad says this plugin is interesting.

Uneasy lies the crown. The feeling that this year’s World Cup is undoubtedly the most openly competitive in yonks, perhaps ever, was strengthened by the events of the weekend. Not alone have almost all of the chasing peleton made strides in recent times, but the back-to-back world champions New Zealand have come back to them.

There were mitigating factors in Australia’s 47-26 win over the All Blacks in Perth on Saturday, notably Scott Barrett’s red card on the brink of half-time with the Wallabies 12-10 ahead.

For all the ensuing debate, Jérôme Garcès fulfilled World Rugby’s new framework on illegal tackles, which are designed to make the game safer. Had Garcès not done so, he’d have been accused of not applying those guidelines. The scoreline at the time and the effect it had on the remainder of the match are irrelevant.

It’s also worth noting that, even by their standards, the All Blacks had been living off scraps up until that point, with just 19 per cent possession and 13 per cent territory. The die had already been cast.

But while this is only the third time since 2009 that the All Blacks haven’t won the Tri Nations or Rugby Championship, the previous two occasions were in 2011 and 2015 when, of course, they went on to win the William Webb Ellis trophy.

It’s as if they like to give themselves a jolt before the World Cup. In 2011 they lost their last two games in an abbreviated Tri Nations, by 18-5 against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth when Graham Henry sent out a second-string team, and by 25-20 against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

The knives were out, especially for
Dan Carter, after some missed kicks, missed tackles and messed-up restarts

They were back to full strength for that epic Tri Nations decider in Brisbane against an inspired Australia. But when they next met in the World Cup semi-finals in Eden Park two months later, all but four of the same starting XV pitched up for a vengeful 20-6 win.

Four years ago the All Blacks were beaten 27-19 by the Wallabies in front of a crowd of 73,824 at the ANZ Stadium in

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