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'We were told women's rugby doesn't matter. 12 years later, Eden Park's sold out bro.'

By Finn Morton
Ruby Tui of New Zealand celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the Pool A Rugby World Cup 2021 New Zealand match between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park on October 08, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

When Black Ferns stars Ruby Tui and Kendra Cocksedge met 12 years ago, they were told “women’s rugby doesn’t matter” – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

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The Black Ferns have inspired and united the nation during their epic run at the World Cup, as these players continue to rewrite what was once throught to be possible.

Players such as Tui, Cocksedge and Stacey Fluhler are among an outstanding group of New Zealand women who’re embodying their roles as pioneers for the next generation who’re watching on in awe.

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New Zealand are now just a matter of days away from playing against World No. 1 England in a Rugby World Cup final at a sold-out Eden Park.

As Tui reflected, a “special moment” in history awaits both women’s rugby, and the nation of Aotearoa.

“Just imagine this nobody knows who the Black Ferns are, nobody know what they look like, nobody follows women’s rugby, we’re told you’ll never be paid,” Tui told reporters.

“We’re told we’re not giving you Eden Park for the World Cup, we’ll give you somewhere that holds five thousand.

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“We’re told women’s rugby doesn’t matter and here we are 12 years later, Eden Park’s sold out bro.

“We’ve all got stories, we’ve got amazing people in the team… we’re at home, we’re playing the best team in the world, and I’m sitting here talking to the most media I have for the Black Ferns.

“It’s a special moment, it’s a really, really special moment.

“Sometimes kiwis can be so laid back we’re lying down but we’ve finally got up. We’re stoked about it.”

The Black Ferns have come a long way in 12-months, and they’ve captured the imagination of the nation who are now daring to dream along with these players.

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The women in black played two Tests each against both England and France during their end-of-season tour last year, and were defeated by emphatic margins in all four matches.

But spurred on by both the hope and passion of a nation, the Black Ferns rewrote their own history as the team beat France in Auckland to qualify for the final.

Sure, it came down to a missed penalty kick from flyhalf Caroline Drouin in the final minute, but the sheer euphoria from the players and crowd as Cocksedge kicked the ball out was incredible.

While they passed their first close contest of the tournament, it doesn’t get any easier against England.

The Red Roses are full of confidence, and are charging into the World Cup decider on the back of a 30-Test win streak.

“We’re about to play the best team in the world,” Tui added.

“Obviously want to take their heads off, but I’m proud of them for what they’ve done for women’s rugby. They’re leading the world in all facets of it, we’ve got a little bit of catching up to do.

“To play the best team in the world in New Zealand, sold out at Eden Park, in front of Aotearoa… I can’t wait for that.”

Under the guidance of rugby supercoach Wayne Smith, the Black Ferns have transformed their game, and now possess one of the most threatening attacking brands of rugby in the sport.

Veteran halfback Cocksedge said she’s really enjoying being able to “express myself more.”

“I probably fell into a bit of a structured game the last few years and when Smithy came on and the first thing he said to me is we’re not doing any box kicks, we’re getting rid of that as part of our game,” Cocksedge said.

“For me I’ve just been allowed to express myself more a bit more and as a nine we love that, to be able to play freely and just play what’s in front is important.

“For someone that’s been around for a long time I could’ve had a real fixed mindset on that but I’ve got a growth mindset and I absolutely love being able to play the way we are.

“I’m actually enjoying it, I think that’s probably what it comes down to. I probably just got into a position where I was just being a halfback and I was just passing, but now I’m taking quick taps, I can have runs around the rucks if it’s on.”

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Jon 5 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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