There is a lot of buzz around the mooted All Blacks-Kangaroos hybrid rugby match on 5 December, 2020 and if the game helps fill the coronovirus-depleted coffers of those teams, then good for them.
However, a fair bit of opinion on the virtual street seems to be that the game can only be rugby’s equivalent of the Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor fight, where Mayweather’s lack of fighting proficiency in combat sport beyond boxing dictated the rules and ultimately the outcome.
In the mooted trans-Tasman clash of codes, the game can only look more like league than union because league players cannot acquire the full range of prerequisite union skills and don’t have the big men to compete in union-style play.
Therefore the rules will inevitably favour the Kangaroos, thus meaning that the game cannot be seen as anything other than the novelty sporting spectacle to be tacked onto the end of the season.
So the first order of business for New Zealand and Australian rugby should be to get the Bledisloe Cup right and 2020 represents the perfect time to address a long-standing issue with the tournament.
That issue is that in series draws, the previous year’s winner gets to keep the Bledisloe trophy. Of the 25 series that have been played since the beginning of the professional era in 1995, the series has been drawn eight times.
Australia benefited in 60 per cent of their cup ‘wins’ (three drawn series from five ‘wins’) and New Zealand benefited in 25 per cent of instances (five from 20). The series that were decided by a draw were 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
The central issue here is that both the Wallabies and the All Blacks, would undoubtedly prefer that there are no questions of legitimacy over long strings of wins in the Bledisloe. The golden Wallabies of the late ’90s and the early 2000s were in the eyes of many the best team of their era, with a World Cup and five Bledisloes in the trophy cabinet, but it must grate that three of their five series of wins were drawn two-match series.
Similarly, Richie McCaw’s mighty All Blacks with their two World Cup wins must wish that their 2011 and 2015 Bledisloe series wins were emphatically decided by a series win, rather than by a draw in each.
With all of the class of 2011 and most of 2015 now retired from All Blacks duties, the time is right for those All Blacks who follow to be seen to be earning their own respect in looking to regain the World Cup in 2023. That objective can only be marred if over the next four seasons they take home one of their most prized trophies, without having won the corresponding series.
A drawn series could be decided by at least two different extra-time arrangements. The first would be World Cup style with two short extra halves and a penalty shootout if a winning score is not reached.
Alternatively, the golden point style arrangement, which Super Rugby Aotearoa is currently trialling, would work too.
Either way, even just allowing fans to know that the tournament is genuinely to the death can only add to the excitement and stature of the Premier trans-Tasman rugby tournament.
In those instances where a decider does go into extra time, rugby lovers on both sides of the ditch will get some of those treasured memories for a lifetime.