'The gap has closed': Why Kiwis are worried about the Bledisloe Cup

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Pictured here, All Blacks players pose with the Bledisloe Cup trophy after winning the series again in 2021.
The All Blacks haven't been beaten in a Bledisloe Cup series against the Wallabies since 2002. Pic: Getty

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie doesn’t strike us as the social media type.

So, it's highly unlikely he would have seen the tweet that had Australian rugby fans grimacing this week.

And that's probably a good thing.

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The New Zealand-born Rennie prefers to let sleeping All Blacks lie, but that's not a concern for those at rugby union site, Rugby Pass.

RP tweeted two images of Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper with the accompanying words: "Hey NZ, remember to shine up the Bledisloe…before you hand it over in September."

The Cup wasn't in the picture because Hooper has never laid his hands on it, like a litany of skippers to go before him.

It's been two decades since Australia last won the world's biggest – in size, anyway – trophy.

Any Australian rugby fan under the age of about 25 wouldn't be able to tell you what the thing looks like.

Rennie is working hard at changing that and there are signs the Aussie challenge could be for real this time.

No, we really mean it.

Last weekend, for the first time in eight years, two Australian Super Rugby Pacific sides beat New Zealand opposition on the same weekend.

The Brumbies dusted off the Hurricanes, while the Waratahs recorded the upset of the year in rolling the Crusaders.

On the back of substantial improvement across the board from all five Australian sides, it’s led to renewed optimism about the Wallabies' Bledisloe Cup chances this year – and provocative tweets like the one mentioned above.

The pragmatic Rennie knows better than anyone not to get ahead of yourself, but here's the thing.

New Zealanders have finally woken up to what's going on and they're worried.

Worried that one of their own has been sleeping with the enemy long enough to crack the code.

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"I look at the influence Dave Rennie has had and in the 18 months that he's had the job, I see it starting to filter through," former All Blacks winger Stu Wilson told Sky Sports' The Breakdown.

"They are looking more and more like a team that has someone over the top of them giving them all the information they need to know.

"When he left New Zealand, he's given Australia the opportunity to close the gap.

"Now everybody, including their coaches, have a better understanding of how to play against New Zealand teams.

"The Australian teams have come back. It's a significant change."

Seen here, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie speaking to the media before the 2022 Bledisloe Cup series.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie speaks to reporters during a Rugby Australia media announcement before the 2022 Bledisloe Cup series. Pic: Getty

The stats were then trotted out to back up Wilson's assessment.

The average win margin between New Zealand and Australia Super teams this year is seven points, down from 19 last year.

Kiwi teams are making fewer line breaks while Aussie line breaks are up.

And Australian teams are missing fewer tackles than they were last year.

It's led Wilson to make a prediction that would have been laughed at 12 months ago.

"The second Bledisloe Cup Test at Eden Park could be for the trophy," he warned.

"This country (Australia), the more games they win in this (Super Rugby) competition, the bigger belief they're going to have."

"The gap has closed."

Mind your step, Kiwis.

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