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International Rugby - Rugby Union: Mat Rogers Bledisloe Cup - 20 Years on

The Bledisloe Cup reaches its 80th year in 2022 and it is now two decades since the Wallabies tasted success in the competition, as the All Blacks’ dominance over their closest rivals continues.

The last Bledisloe Cup victory came back in 2002, courtesy of Matthew Burke’s late conversion which gave Australia a 16-14 victory over the All Blacks, a distant memory for most of the young Wallabies that make up the current squad.

One man who played a vital role the last time Australia lifted the famous trophy is former League and Union star Mat Rogers.

The 46-year-old made 200 appearances in the NRL for Cronulla Sharks and Gold Coast Titans before his switch to Union in 2001, in total he represented his country 56 times across both codes.

Rogers played with and against some of the leading Rugby figures of his era, speaking exclusively to bet365 with current Wallabies stars James Slipper, Tom Wright and Allan Alaalatoa, he outlined the highs and lows of his career, named his fiercest opponents on the pitch and rated the Aussies’ chance of prising the trophy back from New Zealand.

What are the expectations of representing the Kangaroos?

Rogers said: “When you play for the Kangaroos in Rugby League, there is a mantra that you do not lose, we are the best side and we do not lose. But I know that the All Blacks live that mantra too, they are relentless in everything they do.

“Once it’s inside of you, you feel it, you believe it, you’re a part of it and you’ve got to carry that mantle forward, that is half the battle.”

Best and Toughest players you played with?

“The best player I ever played with was Andrew Johns. He could do it all, he could hit like a train, throw a 30-metre pass, put a kick on a dime, he would run the game like nobody I’ve played with before and just did it like he was playing in his back yard!

“For Union, the best I’ve played with is Matt Burke. He was just a freak of a talent, he could kick, run, pass and tackle. He moved positions to accommodate me when I moved to the Waratahs, he took me under his wing and guided me, I was learning from one of the best there has ever been."

“The toughest player I played with was Phil Waugh. I’ve never known a guy to be as tough and as physical as he was, where he put his body, where he positioned himself, it was frightening. You couldn’t pay me enough to put my head where he put his every week, but he was prepared to do it for the team.

Current Wallabies stars James Slipper, Tom Wright and Allan Alaalatoa also gave their thoughts to bet365.

Most feared players to play for Australia?

Wright: “I reckon Hunter Paisami, the way that he can come out of the line and change the game, it’s never easy to find a soft seam around him and he hits to hurt definitely.”

Alaalatoa: “Marika Koroibete. Seriously though that bloke’s unreal. He’s so fit and fast, he flies in to all his tackles, when he carries the ball there’s no handbrake there, he just does everything he can to score."

Slipper: “I’m going to wind back the clock and say for me it’s Toutai Kefu. He was just a hard man, a big number eight and he brought that physical power game."

Most feared players to play for New Zealand?

Slipper: “For the All Blacks, I’d have to say Richie McCaw. In terms of being that guy that always turned up for his team, he was impressive to play against.”

Alaalatoa: “I probably have to say Jerry Collins. He had shoulders of doom that bloke, I used to watch him just end people on the field, every time he crossed the line he just looked so angry, he’d be up there for most feared I reckon.”

Favourite Bledisloe moment?

Slipper: “It’s a while ago, but the 2000 Wellington game when John Eales made that kick, that was pretty special.”

Wright: “When Radiki scored that try from like 70 metres against the All Blacks.”

Alaalatoa: “Mine probably would have been watching George Gregan take down Jonah Lomu, like a number of times. We all know how good Jonah used to be, to have one of the smallest guys on the field to take him down was impressive.”

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