History of the Bledisloe Cup

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James Mortimer -     17 Jul 2009     Getty Images

The popular and charismatic diplomat, who was also noted for purchasing the land where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and presenting it to New Zealand as a memorial ground, would have never realised that the contest would evolve to become arguably the highest profile rugby nation to rugby nation clash in the world.

In its early years, it was contested irregularly, with major events such as Second World War forcing a hiatus of the contest.

It is regarded now as one of the hardest such crowns to win, notwithstanding the fact that the two sides are now legitimate superpowers on the world rugby stage. The holder of the Cup has a considerable advantage, being that the challenger needs to win a greater number of matches to take the famous trophy.

The Wallabies, challengers this year, will need to beat the All Blacks three times this year to win.

Only five times in history have the All Blacks lost three times to the same opponent; to the Springboks in 1976, 1970 and 1949, and the Wallabies in 1998 and 1929.

In the trophies early years, it was completely dominated by the All Blacks.

The Wallabies won the title for the first time in 1934, beating New Zealand 25-11 in their first victory against the All Blacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Fullback Alec Ross (the Ross of Gibraltar) would captain one of the great Wallaby teams, containing one of the greatest Australians of all time, Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop.

From here though, it would be a strong period in All Black history, where they would win nine consecutive matches against the Wallabies from 1936 to 1947.

In 1949 a powerful Wallaby team, captained by Trevor Allan, would come and win the Bledisloe for just the second time.  Some purists regard this year as being difficult to quantify in regards to All Black results.  There was effectively two All Black teams at the time, one touring South Africa, and another playing Australia.

The Bledisloe team, captained by John Burns Smith, would lose 0-2, but the famous Maori centre still was considered one of New Zealand’s best players over this time, winning the Tom French Cup that year (for outstanding Maori player).

It would be the Australians first series success on New Zealand soil.

For the next 27 years (from 1951-1978), the All Blacks would reign supreme in Trans Tasman clashes, embarking on the longest period of domination in Bledisloe history, winning the Cup 12 times.

Over this time, the team would feature such All Black legends as Fred Allen, Bob Duff, Don Clarke, Wilson Whineray and the first Grand Slam winning Captain Graham Mourie.

In 1979 and 1980 the Wallabies would win the Bledisloe Cup back to back, which to this day is only the second time the Australians have held the Cup for more than “one reign/year”. Many believe that this was the beginning of a Wallabies emergence as a genuine world power.

The All Blacks between 1982 and 1985 would win four consecutive Bledisloe Cups, in another notable era of New Zealand dominance.

Here, names such as Andy Dalton, Stu Wilson, Murray Mexted, Bernie Fraser and Gary Whetton would form the nucleus of a side that ruled the world stage, also inflicting a 4-0 series win against the Lions at this time.

In 1986, only two years after recording their historic first Grand Slam, a Wallabies side with Andrew Slack captaining, would record their first win on New Zealand soil in 37 years. Nick Far-Jones and David Campese would be part of the historic side.

However at the time, New Zealand rugby endured the Cavalier tours, and the Baby Blacks (so named while so many other players toured South Africa) would almost defeat the Wallabies in the first match and would square the series in the second test. However, Australia would win the third test 22-9 at Eden Park.

This would be the last time they would win at arguably the All Blacks’ greatest fortress.

This record is under threat in the first Investec Tri Nations test.

From 1987 to 1991, the All Blacks; with a World Cup in hand would win five straight series against the Wallabies. At this time, it would be an impressive record against their Trans Tasman rivals, with New Zealand boasting 26 series wins against just five for Australia.

In 1992 the Wallabies would win the Bledisloe, in their first full year as World Champions, but would lose it the following year, before again regaining it in 1994.

In 1995, with rugby union on the verge of becoming professional, the All Blacks, despite the Australia’s rugby strength at the time, would for the next three years win seven straight matches against the Wallabies, also winning the first two Tri Nations titles.

In 1998, the All Blacks would lose the Bledisloe Cup to the Wallabies, where the Australians embarked on what is regarded as the finest period in Australian rugby, winning an unprecedented five series.

New Zealand went from 1998 to 2002 without the Cup, the longest period that the All Blacks haven’t held the trophy, including losing 8 of 11 matches to Australia, their worst record against any team over a 11 match run, at any point in history.

It is a testament to New Zealand rugby strength that despite this, the aggregate of the eleven matches was only 223 to 246 points to Australia.

In 2003, the All Blacks would impressively win the Bledisloe Cup, including inflicting the Wallabies biggest loss at home in their bastion at Sydney, winning 50-21.

The All Blacks have not relinquished the Cup since.

From 2003 to the present day, the All Blacks are currently in the middle of the second longest Bledisloe Cup reign in history, winning 12 of 16 matches against their most prolifically encountered foes.

Bledisloe Cup record from 1931, when cup was inaugurated

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 113, New Zealand 77, Australia 32, Drawn 4
SERIES VICTORIES: Played 49, New Zealand 37 (including 1931), Australia 12