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Australia and New Zealand. Neighbors in the Antipodes, and rivals in all sports for a century or more. Troops that fought together under the ANZAC name, most memorably at Churchill’s World War I debacle at Gallipoli. Flags of their fathers resemble each other; Union Jacks in the cantons, and stars of the Southern Cross. (New Zealand will display a newly designed flag in 2016).
The All Blacks and the Wallabies, finalists in this year’s Rugby World Cup. One side goes home down under with the William Webb Ellis trophy and a historic, record-breaking, third RWC championship.
It started in 1903 when New Zealand won 22-3 at the Sydney Cricket Grounds. But the two nations use 1920 as the real starting point when test caps were awarded by Australia. The All Blacks won that game also 26-15.
They have played 154 games, and the All Blacks have 102 wins with seven draws. Most recently, New Zealand crushed Australia 41-13 in the annual Bledisole Cup at home. The week before, Australia triumphed 27-19 to win the abbreviated 2015 Rugby Championship.
At neutral venues, the teams are 2-2.
Australia, a sports-minded nation that produced world class cricketers, tennis players, runners, ruggers, and swimmers. A more than average soccer nation. And, inventor of Australian football or “footy”. (Quiz: Why is Australian Football the only field contact sport played on an oval pitch?)
New Zealand, composed of two Islands where rugby union has been a religion since the end of the 19th century. A sport taken up and perfected by the indigenous Maoris whose haka chant is known around the globe. The dominant rugby-playing nation world-wide. The undisputed best rugby side of all time.
This Saturday, October 31, televised at noon ET by NBC, the clash of Titans: Australia vs. New Zealand for the 2015 Rugby World Championship. Watch it!
(The Melbourne Cricket Club invented “footy” as a training sport in the off-season…the rules made to accommodate the existing oval cricket grounds.)