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All Blacks to remember pain of defeat for Rugby Championship opener

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By Reuters

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster says he is still smarting from last October’s defeat to Australia and hopes his players will carry memories of that rare loss into their Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies next week.

After retaining the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman superiority, by beating Australia in the first two games of the Rugby Championship last season, the All Blacks were then stunned 23-18 by Michael Cheika’s side in the dead rubber match.

“I try to move on, but it is still there,” Foster told reporters of the loss at Lang Park, where the Wallabies ended a seven-game losing streak to New Zealand. “We saw that after the game, how much it meant to them.

“It still hurts.”

The loss, while painful, was just a blip in the All Blacks’ domination of the Wallabies in recent years. Since beating Australia 20-6 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final they have won 15 of their 19 games against them.

The Wallabies, who last retained the Bledisloe Cup in 2002 and have not won it since, have two wins and two draws.

New Zealand are looking to secure a third straight Rugby Championship, which also includes southern hemisphere sides South Africa and Argentina. Australia last won it in 2015.

Despite their dominant record, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has tried to paint his back-to-back World Cup winning side as underdogs for the game on Aug. 18 in Sydney.

“We lost to Australia the last time we played them, so no doubt they’ll have a lot of self-confidence and are worthy of starting as favourites,” Hansen said when announcing his squad on Monday.

His comments, however, were laughed at by pundits and former players on both sides of the Tasman Sea, not just because of the All Blacks’ dominance but because the Australians have also struggled in Super Rugby.

New Zealand teams were unbeaten for two years against Australian sides, a run of 40 games, until the New South Wales Waratahs beat a 14-man Otago Highlanders team 41-12 in May.

“There’s been a lot of pleasing signs for Australia this year so I’m not going to just write us off,” former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock told Australian Associated Press this week.

“But I think it’s pretty laughable that Steve could put it out there and claim that they’re underdogs.

“New Zealand’s dominance has been outstanding. Not just against Australia but on a global stage.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)