Who should you support in Bledisloe 3 if you can’t tell an Aussie from a Kiwi?

Harry Jones Roar Guru

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    I cannot really distinguish a Kiwi from an Aussie when they are not playing rugby.

    I know there’s something about how they say “fish” or “chips”, and yes, I am aware there are five times as many Australians as New Zealanders.

    But come on. Run into a guy from Melbourne or Wellington while climbing in the Andes, drinking in a pub in England, or skiing in Canada, and the non-Australasian can only make a wild guess.

    Ned Kelly’s descendants don’t sound or look that much different from the great-great-great grandsons of Samuel Marsden. To non-Anzac people, I mean.

    My understanding is Kiwis are less hostile to England (‘South Sea Poms’?) and that the Australian Labor Party picked the American spelling just to make England mad.

    But visually and aurally, I don’t know. I’m aware Prime Minister Robert Muldoon claimed Kiwis are smarter, with the complicated sledge that increased levels of emigration from New Zealand to Australia would “raise the average IQ of both countries”. But when I look at Liam Squire and Scott Fardy, I just don’t know if I can see that intellectual gap on their faces.

    But when rugby union is the context, the distinction becomes stark: Australia invented so many unique sports – marsupial and hoppy and full of tricks. So, the three best Wallabies in Michael Hooper, Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale, are not really union in how they play. They can’t even do the core functions of their positions. But it doesn’t matter.

    The All Blacks, on the other hand, use a real fullback, a real opensider, and a classic midfield. And all of them are incredibly physically forceful in how they play; while the Wallabies try to out-think the opposition, often on the backfoot, starved at times of front-foot ball.

    Everything the All Blacks do that is magical depends on first obeying the commandments of rugby union; nothing is really that random. Even a counter-attack or kick-return try is laid out on a template that is rehearsed, has lanes and channels, and is repeated too often to be called lucky.

    Aussies play rugby as if there are snakes on the field, and the ground is hot, and as if the touchlines are ‘girt by sea’. Will Genia picking up from the base of a disintegrating scrum, recently, and inventing a try from less-than-nothing is an example.

    But let’s get the obvious out there: New Zealand is a lot better than Australia at rugby. Australia is better at almost every other sport, I think?

    Neither country seems to create many good referees, lately. For all the talk of crooked refs from the Republic being responsible for the Springboks’ pre-readmission success, Saffa whistleblowers are right up there with Nigel Owens.

    New Zealand did, however, invent the referee whistle. This is why they are so good at avoiding its use against them. Also, they invented bungy jumping, which explains Damian McKenzie’s ability to survive a Test match.

    By not inventing too many things, Kiwis focus on rugby.

    Brodie Retallick New Zealand Rugby Union All Blacks 2017 tall

    Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

    Aussies invented the fridge, the black box on airplanes, penicillin, and the electric drill. This explains hyper-assertive and profanity-spewing Michael Cheika’s coaching schemes.

    But who should the neutral rugby fan support? The country which gave us the Lord of the Rings films? Or the subtle poetry of AC/DC?

    It’s so complicated.

    Normally, the rest of the chasers would want number one toppled, but it’s difficult to want this version of Cheika (the one who denies Folau pulled hair in a tackle and thinks that any Ned is a Kelly) to succeed.

    But then again, who can really hate RAAF bomber pilot Lt Bernard Foley? He gets more out of his abilities than anyone in world rugby. Is there a bigger athletic mismatch than Beauden Barrett versus Foley?

    Also, Adam Coleman is so adorably ready to rumble, and also trip over his own feet. In contrast, the super-skilled Sam Whitelock seems ready to take a nap, as he steals yet another lineout. Come on Aussie underdog!

    Nick Phipps and Reiko Ioane seem to inhabit different universes when it comes to rugby majesty. It’s easy to feel sorry for Phipps; Ioane seems designed to be the game’s greatest player ever if he can just not grow old.

    But Steve Hansen is such a nice guy, or maybe he is a villain with fantastic acting skills.

    The lippiest player in B3 might be Dane Coles, but then nobody is more sarcastic than Hooper. So that’s a push.

    It might be nice to see another 57 scored by New Zealand, but I would like to see the Aussies put up 57 as well. A draw is very trendy, and sister-kissing is so 2017.

    Yes, a draw, with 12 missed conversions, please.

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