29 Jul 2023

Slipper tired of same old Bledisloe Cup question

11:58 am on 29 July 2023

James Slipper

James Slipper Photo: Photosport

Australian rugby fans jaded by the All Blacks' 20-year stranglehold of the Bledisloe Cup should spare a thought for Wallabies prop James Slipper, who has carried the burden of history longer than most.

Every year, the weight grows a bit heavier on Slipper's 34-year-old shoulders as the defeats pile up against the New Zealanders in the annual series between the trans-Tasman nations.

The questions from home media, however, have remained consistent since Slipper's first All Blacks test in 2010, a 49-28 defeat in Melbourne under former coach Robbie Deans.

Do the Wallabies see their glum Bledisloe record as a weight or a motivation?

"I probably get asked that question every year," co-captain Slipper told reporters in Melbourne on Friday, on the eve of the Bledisloe opener.

"My first game was actually here in Melbourne against the All Blacks. I got asked that question then.

"It's one of those things that we're just going to have to understand that it's part of our history."

Thirteen years on from his first Melbourne outing, Slipper is the most-capped player in the Wallabies' match-day squad for Saturday.

He is set to notch his 130th test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where a huge crowd of more than 80,000 fans is expected.

Slipper and his team mates would naturally prefer to look forward rather than backward, but local fans will hope history can repeat itself under coach Eddie Jones.

Jones was the last Wallabies coach to win the Bledisloe Cup in 2002, the last of five successive triumphs for Australia.

Recent history has not given much hope for the immediate future, though.

Jones's second stint in charge has started with defeats against South Africa and Argentina, and the Wallabies repeating the same mistakes committed under former boss Dave Rennie.

The All Blacks, meanwhile, have had a flying start to 2023 with big wins over the Pumas and Springboks. They appear to be peaking at the right time in the lead-up to the World Cup in France.

The New Zealanders can seal the Rugby Championship for a third successive time -- as well as a 21st consecutive Bledisloe trophy -- with a victory at the MCG.

For the Wallabies, drastic action may be required to break the Bledisloe doom loop.

Slipper spoke of Jones wiping the slate clean and a need to erase "bad habits" that have become ingrained over 10-20 years.

Slipper, along with the seasoned halfback pairing of Quade Cooper and Nic White, have been benched to let rookie flyhalf Carter Gordon and younger players set the tone.

"We're trying to build something," said Slipper.

"In terms of staff, coaches, there are new players in the squad.

"Look at tomorrow, we've got a new five-eighth, he's going to lead us around, he's young, he's from Melbourne. So there's a different landscape to us.

"But in saying that I'm not going to stand here and say we're the finished product.

"But one thing I'm going to say is we're going to work bloody hard to be."

- Reuters