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Australian rugby sadly still miles behind

The Wallabies may have thrashed the All Blacks but that wasn't the only test match hammering handed out in Perth.

Don’t panic. New Zealand versus Australia in rugby remains one of the most lopsided rivalries in global sport.

When you’re talking about the Black Ferns v Wallaroos, that is.

Yeah, the All Blacks played like shell-shock victims just a couple of months out from a World Cup, but worse things happen at sea, and in curtain-raisers.

Saturday evening’s 47-10 drubbing took the head-to-head record between the Black Ferns and Wallaroos to an ugly 18-0.

Those numbers are good if you’re the opening partnership for the Black Caps, not so flash if it is a win-loss record between two fierce rugby rivals – and you’re the nation sitting on a doughnut.

As Australia is rightly rejoicing the resurgence of its men’s rugby team at Aotearoa’s expense, it’s certainly fitting to reverse that narrative with a few pointed observations about what unfolded in the earlier of the two test matches.

Australia initially appeared much improved on last year’s showing in the battle for Laurie O’Reilly Cup. They played with a decent structure, were dangerous with the ball in hand and scored two brilliant tries. And were thoroughly belted.

The last time the teams met, at Eden Park a year ago, the scoreline was 45-17.

To put that in context, during the intervening year, the Black Ferns have farewelled a number of stalwarts, including talismanic skipper Fiao'o Fa'amausili, introduced a bunch of new players who are still finding their feet at international level – 11 of the match day 23 in Perth had played fewer than 10 tests - and subsequently lost consecutive encounters against rising powerhouse France.

This is far from a Black Ferns outfit at its peak.

Australia, of course, are the reigning Olympic women's rugby champions – in sevens. While they can’t claim to have ever been much chop at the 15-a-side version, surely a nation such as Australia would have pretensions at being so?

So far, so not all that great on that score.

An obvious rebuttal to that is that Black Ferns pounding the Wallaroos is small beer compared to the Wallabies hammering the All Blacks. That would depend on the metrics used to value each result.

As far as this news outlet is concerned, a rugby test match is a rugby test match. As a nation, we don’t think less of Valerie Adams or the (formerly) Evers-Swindell twins’ efforts because they happened to be female. Why would we, then, do so with rugby?

As it happens, the Black Ferns, like the All Blacks, are reigning world champions. And they also face a fierce test to retain that status, with France and England the most clear and present dangers.

The only differences between the Black Ferns and All Blacks is that the Black Ferns have more time to get their house fully in order before hosting the next women’s World Cup in 2021 – and that Australia aren’t really much of a threat.

In the men’s game, that the second point doesn’t apply is only a very recent development.

And it’s a great development. The world game needs the Wallabies to be a genuine force – and is much more interesting when they are.

So let’s hope Australia can go the whole hog and turn its women’s team into a team to be respected by 2021. If they do that, the Aussies would really have something to crow about.

And New Zealand rugby fans would have another rivalry worthy of our interest.

New Zealand 47 (Charmaine McMenamin 2, Renee Wickliffe, Ruahei Demant, Selica Winiata, Les Elder, Ayesha Leti-I'iga, Joanah Ngan-Woo tries; Kendra Cocksedge con pen, Ruahei Demant con) Australia 10 (Lori Cramer 2 tries). HT: 22-0

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