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History

Rugby Union's Bledisloe Cup is contested between Australia's Wallabies and New Zealand's All Blacks. It is named after Lord Bledisloe, the Governor-General of New Zealand who donated the trophy in 1931.

There is some conjecture as to when the first Bledisloe Cup match was played. The Australian Rugby Union contends that the one-off 1931 match played at Eden Park was first. However, no firm evidence has been produced to support this claim, and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union believes that the first match was when New Zealand toured Australia in 1932.

Between 1931 and 1981 it was contested irregularly in the course of rugby tours between the two countries. New Zealand won it 19 times and Australia 4 times in this period.

In the years 1982 to 1995, it was contested annually, sometimes as a series of three matches and other times in a single match. During these years New Zealand won it 11 times and Australia 3 times.

Since 1996, the cup has been contested as part of the annual Tri Nations tournament. The Tri Nations brings South Africa in as the third team. Until 1998 the cup was contested in a three match series: the two Tri Nations matches between these sides and an additional third match. New Zealand won these series in 1996 and 1997, and Australia won it in 1998. During this three year period, with the 1998 the exception, dead rubbers weren’t contested.

Since 1999 the third match has not been played. This means the two matches in which Australia and New Zealand play each other as part of the Tri Nations determines who wins the Bledisloe Cup. If each team wins one of these games, or if the holder wins one game and the other is drawn, or if both games are drawn, the cup is retained by its current holder.

The non-holder must win the two games 2-0 or 1-0 (with a draw) to regain the Cup. A criticism of this system is that with the evenness of both sides, years where each team wins one game has been very common (1999, 2000, 2002, 2004). In these years, many rugby fans were unhappy to see the trophy go to a team that merely drew the series.

From 2006 onwards, the Bledisloe Cup will once again be played for over a three match series. This is because the Tri-Nations has been lengthened from each of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa playing each other twice, to three times. This will ensure that in most seasons, a clear winner of the Bledisloe Cup will be found.

If the All Blacks and Wallabies play each other in a non-Tri-Nations game (e.g. they are drawn to play each other at a World Cup), the Bledisloe Cup is not on offer.


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