It is a weird thought but the All Blacks have only won one of their past four matches going into their Bledisloe Cup tie with the Wallabies this weekend at Eden Park.
Their only win since they lost to Ireland in November was against Argentina, a match where the Pumas came within touching distance of snatching it at the end. A draw with the Springboks in Wellington followed by last weekend’s humbling loss to the Wallabies in Perth has put Steve Hansen in unknown territory so near to the World Cup.
To make matters worse, the All Blacks could lose their status at the number one ranked team in the world, something they have held for 500 weeks, should England beat Wales by more than 16 points at the Principality Stadium this weekend. This is not something that teams or coaches are concerned about, but it is nevertheless an indication that the All Blacks’ grip on world rugby is not as strong as it once was.
With only two games left before the World Cup commences in September, Hansen will quickly want to stop the rot, and there is no better place than Eden Park. However, despite this slight slump for the world champions, they still enter the World Cup as favourites.
This seems to be the consensus on Twitter.
Perhaps fans know that Hansen has been experimenting with his team slightly this Rugby Championship, especially with the choice of playing Beauden Barrett at fullback. Moreover, the red card for Scott Barrett against the Wallabies may have been decisive in the result, and a full complement of players may have earned a different outcome.
Ultimately, the All Blacks have done enough over the past decade to show why they are the best in the World, and this poor run of form by them has not swayed many fans’ opinions. Additionally, no team has ever won the Rugby Championship/ Tri Nations and the World Cup in the same year, which some feel bodes well for the All Blacks.
This is what has been said:
The All Blacks will go to the world cup as favourites, but for the first time in what seems like an absolute age they are beatable by a fair number of sides. This should be an excellent world cup. https://t.co/dK5DdUUkMr
— Adam Brown (@AdBrown85) August 10, 2019
While the All Blacks may be favourites, they are in no way as comfortable as they were going into the last two World Cups.
The Springboks sent a massive statement last month in earning a draw in Wellington, as well as their win on New Zealand soil last season. They will push the All Blacks all the way, and seeing as both teams are in the same pool, they could easily meet again in the final.
Grand Slam champions Wales have also peaked this year and are seen as a major threat, although they did lose to England at the weekend. They meet again in Cardiff this Saturday, which could prove telling as to which is in a better place going into the World Cup.
Meanwhile, both Australia and Ireland have had mixed 2019s, but both have beaten New Zealand in the past year, which will fill them with a lot of confidence.
Ultimately, the World Cup looks wide open, but it does not mean that many fans on Twitter are not backing the All Blacks still.
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