The Reuters global sports blog
Northern hemisphere hopes are raised at the start of every November but by the end of the month it has usually become crystal clear that the Tri-Nations’ stranglehold on world rugby remains as tight as ever.
Already, after the opening exchanges produced a 3-0 sweep for the south last Saturday, the imbalance is there for all to see.
Rugby’s problem, with so few major national teams playing the game, is that it will not be long before fans just get bored with the same old same old.
New Zealand were not exactly comfortable in beating England at Twickenham but they did win by 10 points and always seemed able to add to their tally whenever the hosts drew close.
How about this for a job swap. Former Italy rugby international Denis Dallan will sing the national anthem before the Azzurri’s test with New Zealand at Milan’s San Siro on Saturday.
Dallan, who picked up 42 caps between 1999 and 2007, fancies himself as a tenor and will boom out what has to be one of the world’s most upbeat national anthems to 80,000 people.
There were reverses, notably at the hands of Wales in 1905, 1935 and 1953, three of the first four games between the two small rugby-mad nations. But the win-loss ratio remained overwhelmingly in favour of the All Blacks, whose distinctive all-black uniform and pre-match haka (Maori war dance) enhanced their special aura.
Until the All Blacks and Wallabies came to town.
Colin Meads, regarded by most New Zealanders as the greatest All Black of them all, delivers a diverting after-dinner speech in a self-deprecating “aw shucks” hill farmer’s style with a bottle of beer firmly clutched in a large fist.
It is only after the laughter subsides that the listener realises with a twinge of unease that the majority of the anecdotes involve Meads using one or both of his large fists to thump a member of the opposition. Illegal then and illegal now, it’s worth recalling now amid all the hot air spouted over the Harlequins fake blood scandal.