James Mortimer 23.Aug.2013Getty Images
The retention of the Bledisloe Cup
If the All Blacks defeat the Wallabies at Westpac Stadium, it will see them retain one of world rugby’s most distinctive Cups for the 11th straight time, meaning that the historic streak established from 1951 to 1978 will be within touching distance, with that great period seeing New Zealand win 12 straight series.
A win for the World Champions would also be the 41st time they have won the Bledisloe Cup, but the Wallabies will be looking to end their second longest drought in history with a win which would send the series into a decider in Dunedin later this year.
The talent pool at first five-eighth reach record proportions
Desperate times might call for desperate measures, but Tom Taylor’s imminent capping will see five active New Zealand based players in the first five-eighth queue, giving the All Blacks a unique scenario of not merely having the services of one of the game’s greats in Dan Carter, but legitimate backups meaning the senior number ten will likely have a fight on his hands in the coming years.
There are plenty more potentials on the horizon, giving the All Blacks selectors a headache that they might not have seen before, considering that a certain Benji Marshall could bring a new element to the mix in the next 12 months.
The leadership of the All Blacks midfield
There will be a record 150 Test caps in the All Blacks centres this weekend, a number never hit before in New Zealand Test history, and the 50-Test record established by Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy is now under threat as Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith combine for their 48th Test with both players starting together.
With a debutant All Blacks first five-eighth in Tom Taylor starting, expect these two veterans to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Nonu will lurk outside of Taylor consistently to take attacking pressure of him, while Smith will once again be the silent assassin leading the defensive efforts. Never has a new Kiwi ten started their international career with such experience outside.
All Blacks strive to match the magic eight
Throughout 1996 and 1997 the All Blacks went unbeaten throughout the first two editions of the Tri Nations, and a win in Wellington will see the current team match the tournament record of eight straight wins.
Comparisons are always quite a bit of fun even if comparing teams from different eras is fraught with danger, but these current All Blacks will force further assessments if they can lay down a marker in their first home match of the tournament. Two more wins for the reigning Investec Rugby Championship holders will see them set a new record – and could see them match the nine straight wins achieved by the French over 1997-1999 during the Five Nations (that tournament’s consecutive win benchmark).
The quiet celebration of the most ever Test wins
France, with 379 Test wins (over 688 matches), were overtaken last weekend by the All Blacks, who achieved their 380th Test victory, giving the World Champions a 75.7% winning record over their 502 internationals.