New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and Australia rival Michael Cheika chew the fat.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and Australia rival Michael Cheika chew the fat.

Low blow, bro: All Blacks blame Wallabies for form slump

AUSTRALIA are underperforming, leaving South Africa as the only southern hemisphere country providing the All Blacks with the top-flight opposition they need, according to New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.

Hansen conceded the All Blacks' big Bledisloe Cup wins this year came against a team who were "not quite right" and not at the same level as international heavyweights South Africa, England and Ireland.

The All Blacks recorded a loss and a narrow win against the Springboks in the Rugby Championship, followed by a one-point win over England and last week's 16-9 loss to an exceptional Ireland in Dublin.

The latter result has prompted many, including Hansen, to label Ireland as World Cup favourites in Japan next year.

The arm-wrestle at Aviva Stadium was a far cry from the three romps against Michael Cheika's Wallabies.

New Zealand won the Tests in Sydney, Auckland and Yokohama by a combined tally of 115 to 45, scoring 17 tries in the process.

Yet they went try-less in Dublin.

Hansen said a noticeable step-up was required this year against the Springboks, who had been fodder for the All Blacks in recent Rugby Championship campaigns.

"There is no doubt the style of game that is played by South Africa is similar to the style played up here (northern hemisphere), " he told reporters.

"I still believe Australia are a really good rugby side.

"There is definitely something missing because they are not quite right and are not performing to the level they can.

"But the more we play teams like South Africa, Ireland and England, France, which we have done this year it is good for us.

"We have had a bit of a preview so to speak."

Senior rugby journalist Gregor Paul was less diplomatic in a New Zealand Herald column, labelling Bledisloe Cup Tests the "weakest currency" in top-tier international rugby.

Paul said the All Blacks would suffer a slow malaise if Australian teams could not unearth greater quality at Test and Super Rugby level.

New Zealand's season finishes with a Test against Italy in Rome on Sunday (12am AEDT).

Watch Italy v All Blacks LIVE on beIN SPORTS with the Foxtel Sport pack. Sign up now and start streaming straight away via FOXTEL GO

News Corp Australia

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