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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'It's not what we want': Dramatic TRC finish frustrating for All Blacks

By AAP
Rieko Ioane and Sam Whitelock. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The rollercoaster ride that has been the All Blacks‘ southern season will come to a halt in their Bledisloe Cup finale against Australia.

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In keeping with the high drama that has surrounded the side and coach Ian Foster this year, even a win will not confirm whether they have won the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand are favourites for the Southern Hemisphere title but must wait on South Africa’s match with Argentina in Durban, played in the early hours of Sunday morning AEST, to know if they are champions.

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With one match remaining, the Kiwis and Springboks have three wins and two losses; the Wallabies and Pumas two wins and three losses.

Add in bonuses and points differential and it gets very complicated.

“It’s been a heck of a championship,” Foster told Kiwi radio station Newstalk ZB.

“That seems to be the drama that everyone wants but it’s not what we want.

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“None of us have had the consistency we’ve really wanted.

“We’ve certainly seen the growth in Argentina’s form. Aussie are becoming a really, really good team.

“It has made it extremely competitive and it’s going down to the wire.”

The other factor keeping the Rugby Championship close is that the All Blacks have been ordinary by their own world-beating standards.

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Since the start of their Northern Hemisphere tour last year, New Zealand have played 12 Tests for six wins and six losses.

In July against Ireland, New Zealand lost a home series for the first time in nearly three decades, sparking a national reckoning for Foster and the team.

When the All Blacks slumped to a third defeat on the spin – for the first time since 1998 – against South Africa, the NZ Herald splashed a front page asking the beleaguered coach to go.

And all this before they lost to Argentina on home soil for the first time ever.

“We haven’t had the smoothest of years,” captain Sam Whitelock said at Eden Park on Friday, a week after they threw away a 31-13 lead against Australia, before coming back to clinch a stirring 39-37 win in Melbourne.

“We don’t want to do really well and then allow the team to come back like we did last week.”

Foster has made five changes for the match – including the return of Ardie Savea and the loss of captain Sam Cane – but the All Blacks will start hot favourites against Australia.

They have not lost to the Wallabies at their Eden Park fortress for 36 years.

“It’s history. It’s fantastic. We love playing here,” Foster said.

New Zealand head north at the end of next month, playing away Tests against Japan, Wales, Scotland and England to finish their year.

– Ben McKay

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