Beauden Barrett Is the All Blacks’ dominance about to come to an end?

Beauden Barrett This is another glamorous item.

Beauden Barrett Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen delivered the Webb Ellis Cup to World Rugby as the pools are drawn in 2017
2019 Rugby World Cup
Hosts:JapanDates:20 September to 2 November
Coverage:Full commentary on every game across BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Sportswriters occasionally claim the headline, written by someone else on the paper, has mis-sold their words.

New Zealand rugby journalist Chris Rattue could have no such complaint.

“Just give us the World Cup now” ran a front-page plug for his piece in the New Zealand Herald.

Turn inside to the sport section and his opening line told readers “it’s time to jump the gun”.

He added: “They might as well hand over the Webb Ellis Cup now, with the All Blacks looking this good.”

And on that day – Sunday, 26 August 2018 – no-one could have had many complaints about it either.

Mercurial fly-half Beauden Barrett had just scored four tries in a thumping 40-12 win over Australia.

Beauden Barrett slides in for one of his four tries in August 2018’s win over Australia

The victory meant that, since winning their second successive Rugby World Cup in the autumn of 2015, New Zealand had lost just three of the following 33 Tests.

The total domination of world rugby showed no sign of ending and there was no reason to think it would not extend to Japan 2019 and a third straight world crown.

But, with their opening pool match and a potential final dress rehearsal against second-favourites South Africa looming, things are not quite so certain.

The end of an era?

In August this year another article appeared, this time on the other side of the Tasman Sea after a very different Bledisloe Cup result.

Sydney-based newspaper The Australian fed imagesof All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read into the viral Faceapp tool, putting another 40 years on the 30-plus All Black mainstays.

The dig at the ‘Old Blacks’ sprung from the Wallabies’ record 47-26 win over a 14-man New Zealand in Perth a few days earlier.

The game before that, New Zealand had been held to a 16-16 draw on home turf by a resurgent South Africa. Nine months previously, they had been squeezed out by a relentless Ireland side in Dublin, going down 16-9.

As a result of those defeats, for what they are worth, World Rugby’s own rankingsrate Ireland as the world’s best team heading into the tournament, as first Wales and now Joe Schmidt’s side ended the All Blacks’ near-decade long hold on top spot.

So is this the end of an era? Or just

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