Wait, what? It's Bledisloe Cup week ... at Eden Park

It seems a while ago now that the biggest talking point in Australian rugby was the exact position of Marika Koroibete's right shoulder. But it is just two weeks since the Fijian-born flyer's red card was overturned, freeing him for selection for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener.

The Bledisloe Cup? Yep. At Eden Park. Auckland ... you know the drill from here.

It should come as little surprise that the fixture has seemingly sprung up from nowhere. And no, that is not a slight on the marketing department at Rugby Australia; it is of course not their duty to promote the clash, though Stan Sport and Channel 9 will likely want to drive awareness this week.

No, the Bledisloe has been a victim of the Olympics and the success of both Australia and New Zealand - relative to the size of their respective populations - and for the wonderful distraction it has provided the millions of Australians currently under lockdown restrictions.

And for those rusted on rugby fans still craving their daily dose of code there has been enough in the Springboks-Lions series - we speak not of entertaining rugby but instead the Rassie Erasmus educational hour - and Quade Cooper's shock return to the Australian setup to at least keep some skin in the 15-man game. The Olympic sevens competition was also fantastic viewing; certainly for a New Zealander, less so an Aussie.

But here we are again.

It has been 18 years since the Bledisloe was last in the Wallabies' keeping and even longer since they last won at Eden Park. Andrew Slack, Greg Cornelsen, 1986 ... we won't bore you with the details.

This year's incarnation of the Wallabies slipped pretty quietly into New Zealand on Friday afternoon and largely by the skin of their collective teeth after Australia's battle with the Delta COVID-19 variant slipped over into Queensland.

Staging international rugby fixtures amid the pandemic has become an increasingly difficult task, so much so that the venue and date for the second Test is still to be confirmed.

But Australia won't be looking beyond Saturday night and yet another "chance to end their 35-year hoodoo" at a venue where the All Blacks simply do not lose.

So why could this year be different?

For starters, the Wallabies are battle hardened after three thrilling encounters with France, the last of which they won playing with 14 men for 75 minutes following Koroibete's dismissal.

The new faces coach Dave Rennie introduced in 2020 have meanwhile continued to find their feet at Test level, none more so than fly-half Noah Lolesio, and they have increased depth across positions that have previously been wafer thin; at last Australia has genuine dilemmas at tighthead, lock, blindside and No. 8.

The All Blacks, too, have selections headaches aplenty, but this is in no way a new phenomenon in New Zealand. And the confidence they must draw from their outstanding record at Eden Park is self-belief few other teams in the world, from any sport, will ever feel or understand.

But there is also the background noise of Ian Foster's contract uncertainty and the fact that this iteration of the All Blacks, for all their supreme athletes and their associated skills, physicality and intensity, is not quite as fearsome as the one Steve Hansen consistently rolled out across his eight-year tenure.

It is however blessed with a host of world-class players in Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga and those on their way to stardom like Will Jordan, Luke Jacobson and Nepo Laulala.

That is more than enough collective quality for New Zealand to have put one hand on the Bledisloe come Saturday night.

But it's true that Australia might not have ever had a better opportunity to end their woeful run not only on New Zealand soil but at Eden Park. Only the unpredictability of a Wellington gust denied Reece Hodge and the end of the Wallabies' Kiwi drought last year, before Australia learned the hard way why you shouldn't ever kick to Caleb Clarke.

The tackle-shredding winger, thankfully from the Wallabies' perspective, aligned himself to the Olympic sevens campaign earlier this year, and despite not playing a game in Tokyo he won't be available for the All Blacks for some time.

Still, the bookmakers have however set the odds accordingly, with Australia $7.50 outsiders.

Only the truest of Wallabies believers would part with their hard-earned given all the history and information available to make an informed punting decision. And, as ever, you're reminded to make such a wager responsibly.

But with the action winding down come Saturday night and Australia's gold rush well and truly slowed, the rush of a Bledisloe win at Eden Park would be the ultimate cure for any Australian's Olympic withdrawal.

At least now you know to tune in, no matter how fantastically unfathomable the prospect of a Wallabies' win might be.