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Black Ferns co-captain warns France 'should be worried' ahead of semi-final

By Finn Morton
Ruahei Demant of New Zealand leads the haka at Rugby World Cup 2021 at Eden Park on October 08, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant believes France “should be worried” ahead of their blockbuster World Cup semi-final at Eden Park on Saturday.

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The traditional rugby rivals met twice during New Zealand’s 2021 end-of-year tour to England and France, with the Black Ferns losing by emphatic margins on both occasions.

After losing their opening two matches of the tour to World No. 1 England, including a 41-point loss in Northampton, New Zealand were beaten in both Tests against France by at least 22-points.

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But under the guidance of legendary coach Wayne Smith, who was appointed as the new Black Ferns coach in April, there is clearly genuine belief amongst the squad that they win the World Cup.

While they got off to a disastrous start in their opener against the Wallaroos, they’ve gone on to score 209 points across four matches so far.

Co-captain Demant said the Black Ferns have “evolved” their mindset, and have revolutionised their threat with the ball-in-hand.

“We’re not like any other team either. We’ve evolved in so many ways but probably the biggest way that we’ve evolved is the mindset that we have when we have ball-in-hand,” Demant said this week.

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“It doesn’t matter what part of the field that we’re on, whether or not we’ve absorbed a lot of defence, we want to try and get five points out of any opportunity that we get.

“To do that, it takes courage. Not every team does that, it’s quite easy to get into quite a traditional mindset of you need territory, you need possession to a win a game of footy.

“The French style is a French style, so our coaches are looking at the game with fresh eyes, but that hunger and desire to make sure that you come full-time we’re going through to the Final, it’s still there.”

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The Black Ferns have won all four of their World Cup games with dominant displays, but there’s no ignoring that France have beaten them by big margins before.

Their first meeting last November ended with a 38-13 win to the hosts in Pau, before France backed up this win with a 29-7 victory a week later in Castres.

While Demant is confident that the Black Ferns can earnt their sport in the Final, the New Zealand pivot agreed that historically they are the “underdogs.”

“In terms of the results every time we’ve played France, yes we are the underdogs,” she said.

“But it’s a World Cup and it’s a semi-final, it’s anyone’s game. If you think if you were in the position that my team is in right now, how would you feel if this was your last game potentially?

“You can’t really compare the first training we had with (Wayne Smith) to now. Even after this morning’s training, the quality of some of the drills that we were doing, the accuracy that we were executing them at, it was probably we’ve ever been.

“That’s exactly what you want this week so you can’t compare where the team was at the start of the year to now.”

Canada will face England in the first semi-final on Saturday afternoon, which is a rematch of the 2014 Final in France.

New Zealand will then take the field against France in front of an Eden Park crowd in the second semi-final.

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