BLEDIS­LOE CUP II:

Rugby’s Burn­ing Ques­tions

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Stuff.co.nz’s lead­ing rugby scribes tackle the burn­ing ques­tions of the week Bledis­loe II comes to the cap­i­tal to­day.

Com­plete this sen­tence: Af­ter Syd­ney the Wal­la­bies are …

MARC HIN­TON: At rock bot­tom. In a world of hurt. In dan­ger of im­plod­ing their code ... Take your pick. Look, the Aussies are clearly in a shock­ing state, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this com­ing. Their Su­per Rugby ef­fort was woe­ful, their play­ers well off the mark and their off­shore pol­icy smacks of des­per­a­tion. Plus, they’ve caught the ABs on the up­ward trend. Bad mix in a code in dan­ger of be­ing spat out the back end in Aus­tralia. It has to get much bet­ter, quickly. It mightn’t. RICHARD KNOWLER: In dan­ger of mak­ing bo­zos of them­selves un­less they ad­dress the glitches that con­trib­uted to that poxy per­for­mance last week­end. Be­ing em­bar­rassed twice in the space of eight days can­not be an op­tion for any­one in the Aussie camp.

HAMISH BIDWELL: In­tel­lec­tu­ally bank­rupt. They spent a month pre­par­ing for that test − a game Cheika made an ab­so­lutely mas­sive pri­or­ity − and never fired a shot. Never mind the tack­ling, the most glar­ing thing about the Wal­la­bies was the ab­sence of at­tack­ing ideas. They’ve now pinned their of­fen­sive hopes on Quade Cooper. Good luck.

LIAM NAPIER: Anx­ious to right the wrongs. The Wal­la­bies surely can’t be as bad as they were in Syd­ney. Be­ing slated by home fans and their press should evoke a siege men­tal­ity of sorts, and at least some sort of pas­sion­ate re­sponse. Can’t see that be­ing enough, but they should be more com­pet­i­tive for 60-odd min­utes.

Would an­other big All Black win ac­tu­ally be bad for the game, like peo­ple are say­ing?

Hin­ton: Don’t be ridicu­lous. That’s like say­ing the Chicago Bulls of the ‘90s were bad for the NBA. Or Barcelona of the last decade have been bad for Euro­pean foot­ball. Win­ners set stan­dards for oth­ers to as­pire to. That’s what the All Blacks are do­ing now. They’re play­ing at an in­cred­i­ble level, and long may it con­tinue. The onus is fairly and squarely on the chasers, like the Wal­la­bies, to lift their game to com­pete.

Knowler: No. Can’t see the logic in such a state­ment. Team A strives for per­fec­tion. Teams B, C, D etc try and match them. If Team A gets to the pin­na­cle sooner, why is that bad for rugby? It just sets a stan­dard. Bidwell: No. The All Blacks need a proper ri­val, that’s clear. But the day we get sick of sports teams striv­ing for ex­cel­lence − and of­ten reach­ing it − is the day we should all shut up and go home.

Napier: Not re­ally. Aus­tralia’s strug­gles aren’t re­flec­tive of test rugby as a whole. Eng­land showed in June they’re clearly a notch above them. Ide­ally our clos­est neigh­bour would pro­vide bet­ter com­pe­ti­tion, as we play them more than any­one else, but the real­ity is there’s been many blowouts over the past 13 years of Bledis­loe Cup dom­i­nance.

Should Kiwis stop boo­ing Quade Cooper?

Hin­ton: I’m a big be­liever that fans have the right to make their own minds up about these things. But in this case I will say, please move on. It’s be­come tired. Plus the poor guy has been so bad for so long against the All Blacks, you al­most feel sorry for him.

Knowler: Yep. It’s em­bar­rass­ing. Can’t see the hu­mour in it. Bidwell: Yep. It’s lame. Napier: I’m of the be­lief that pun­ters pay good money to at­tend these tests and, es­sen­tially, have the right to be­have how they like. If they cross the line, they’ll be thrown out. Who are we to tell them how to act? Boo­ing may not be the most like­able trait, but I’ve got no sym­pa­thy for Cooper. His id­i­otic ac­tions brought the at­ten­tion on him­self. Stuff

Af­ter Syd­ney the Wal­la­bies are … Marc Hin­ton: At rock bot­tom. In a world of hurt. In dan­ger of im­plod­ing their code ... Take your pick. Look, the Aussies are clearly in a shock­ing state, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this com­ing.

Wal­la­bies head coach Michael Cheika and skip­per Stephen Moore pon­der what went wrong in the fist test in Syd­ney last week.

All Black debu­tant Anton Lienert-Brown.

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