The bitter Bledisloe Cup fallout is merely a symptom of a rivalry that, while one-sided, still matters deeply to both countries, according to All Blacks star Israel Dagg.
Trans-Tasman tensions are high in the wake of last week’s 29-9 result in Wellington, particularly following Australian allegations of eye gouging and secret referee meetings involving the victorious New Zealanders.
But Dagg – who scored two tries in a successful second Test shift from fullback to the wing – says it’s all part of the theatre of rugby.
“It’s not tiddlywinks,” Dagg said on Friday.
“It’s a physical sport, a physical game and there are two sides that really want to win.
“Tempers flare and things happen, it’s just part of the game.
“They’re emotional, we’re emotional … it’s like two bombs colliding.”
Dagg said suggestions of a lack of respect between the Wallabies and All Blacks are wide of the mark.
“It’s taking it a bit far,” he said.
“We’ve got respect for them and they’ve got respect for us. You feel for them. It’s not nice.
“In saying that, there’s only one winner.
“They’ve just had a run where things haven’t gone right for them. I’m sure it will turn around quickly and you guys (the media) will start loving them again.”
Dagg also dismissed talk the Bledisloe Cup rivalry is losing its lustre because of the All Blacks’ dominance, with this the 14th consecutive year the coveted trophy will remain in their possession.
“It will never fall away,” he said.
“Australia-New Zealand, it’s always going to be a tough, full-on, physical, exhilarating battle.
“It’s going to be no different for the rest of our lives.”
The Wallabies and All Blacks meet again for the third Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland on October 22.