Kiwis worry All Blacks ‘fear factor largely gone’

WELLINGTON (AFP) – The All Blacks’ record loss to the Wallabies in Perth left the proud rugby nation struggling to find positives yesterday with an increasing suggestion their golden days may be over.

“The intimidating aura which has served them so well fell with an almighty thud,” wrote Chris Rattue in the New Zealand Herald.

Not only were the reigning World champions humiliated by the 47-26 scoreline, but their record loss to Australia also ended a 10-year reign as the top-ranked side in the world, a decade in which they won the World Cup twice.

They will be restored as number one if Wales lose to England at Twickenham.

“The fear factor is largely gone,” Rattue said of the All Blacks, adding there was a good chance they would not win the upcoming World Cup and the “long domination which the incomparable Richie McCaw inspired may well have disappeared forever”.

That the All Blacks played the second half with 14 men after Scott Barrett was red-carded only added to their woes but was not the cause, for even when they had the maximum number on the field they were being comprehensively out-played.

“All Blacks thrashed”, “Bledisloe Bashing”, “Wallabies shock All Blacks”, “Hansen has ‘egg all over face’,” screamed the headlines while Radio New Zealand, perhaps unable to face the truth, posted the headline “All Blacks beat Wallabies” on their webpage before giving the correct match details.

Tony Smith, writing for Stuff.co.nz, tried to find a silver lining by noting that Australia also beat New Zealand in the 2011 and 2015 southern hemisphere championship but it was the All Blacks who won the World Cup in both years.

Only four All Blacks have ever been sent off in Test history with Stuff’s Paul Cully noting French referee Jerome Garces was responsible for two of them in two years: Sonny Bill Williams against the British and Irish Lions in 2017 and then Barrett against the Wallabies in Perth.