Bledisloe just a step in World Cup preparation: Gregan
June 25, 2014
The Wallabies had much to celebrate against France; now for New Zealand © Getty Images
The next 500 days are about preparations for the Rugby World Cup, but the next two months for the Wallabies are also about trying to win back the Bledisloe Cup. And sitting on seven consecutive wins, having swept France in their three-Test series, and boasting a rare depth of talent, the Wallabies are ready for their next challenges on the road to the 2015 Rugby World Cup; win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002, and win The Rugby Championship for the first time.
"It would be great to win [the Bledisloe Cup] back," George Gregan told ESPN in an exclusive interview during the Land-Rover Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
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"We've been talking about it for a while now, but I'd just be a bit quiet. We've been saying it, we go down this path [every year], I think it's just quietly, quietly. I think the All Blacks just like winning. It doesn't matter what they're playing for, they like to win it.
"So you know we're going to have to go out there and earn it through really good performances. Any time you beat the All Blacks, it has to be a really good performance; they're going to have to do that twice throughout the year, and that's going to be a challenge, but that's what you play Test match rugby for."
The campaign to win back the Bledisloe Cup, end the All Blacks' record-breaking winning streak, and claim their first Rugby Championship title will provide a strong indicator of the Wallabies' standing, and whether they will be ready for the World Cup, but Gregan sees the tournament merely as a step forward in preparations for next year.
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"Not winning the Rugby Championship - it's not the be all and end all," Gregan said. "New Zealand won the last World Cup, but I don't know how many of the Rugby Championships or the Tri-Nations [they won] in the lead up to '99 and 2003. So it's important, but it's not the gauge defining who's going to win the World Cup. The World Cup comes down to basically seven weeks; playing well at the right end of that tournament basically decides who's going to become the world champion.
"But playing those teams [New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina], it would be great to get victories across the teams throughout the year. It would be great to get victories across those teams in their own home country as well: if you can play well at home, that's one thing; but if you can take your game away and win, that takes your belief within the team to another level - which I think would be great for the Wallaby team going into the World Cup being played away from home."
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New Zealand came away from their Test series against England with a clean sweep, and continued their unbeaten run to 17, but Gregan was surprised by their errors during the first two Tests and believes the Wallabies will be able to pounce on some of their perceived weaknesses.
"I wasn't too shocked by the first Test because there's always a bit of rust going into your first Test match; you haven't played in seven months... I expected the All Blacks not to make as many fundamental errors as they did, in the first Test and in the second, which they did, and maybe that's through just a bit of pressure but also just some good play from England.
"Through this Test series, we've just seen ways to sort of curtail the way the All Blacks normally play in Test matches. They like to start fast and impose the way you're going to play the 80 minutes, and if you can stop them from doing that - they're just like any normal human beings, they'll struggle. But they find a way to win which is just something you can expect from a great team.
"But every time you play a team, particularly a team like the All Blacks, you're going to be challenged and there's ways to beat any team; the All Blacks are no different in that regard, but it's always a massive effort required from the entire group to get the job done."
Gregan believes the new-look Wallabies squad now will need to square away the little things in the eight weeks ahead of the Rugby Championship-opening Test, which he says will be among their biggest challenges of the year.
"They've just got to be consistent with their performance individually, and their basics of the game just need to be really strong because that's what gets tested and they're the things that kind of unravel a bit under pressure; in those big games - in particular World Cups - it's all about pressure and dealing with it, like no other tournament. So you want your nuts and bolts of your game to be really strong."
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