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'History is on our side': Can the Black Ferns lift to the Red Roses' level?

By Ned Lester
Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Black Ferns may have demolished their opposition so far this International season, but just how close they are to competing with the northern giants of England and France is still a relative mystery.

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The Ferns suffered the four biggest losses in the team’s history on their northern tour last year, in only four matches. All of which came against the French and English.

Since that tour the Black ferns have reinvented themselves, new coaches and players have steered the team to huge wins over the likes of Australia, USA, Canada, and most recently a 95-12 thrashing of Japan.

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England remain as heavy favourites for the title, but The Breakdown’s panel of ex-All Blacks identified a number of factors that could have the home side in the running for a sixth World Championship.

Kirsty Stanaway asked 80 test-cap All Black Justin Marshall how the Black Ferns can know how they compare to the northern teams with such big changes within the team since their last matchups as a fading point of reference.

“Valid question, and a good question.” Marshall conceded.

“It’s difficult, you’ve just got to look at trends and they’ll get a lot of those from the games that they played against them at the end of last year.

“Importantly, I think the focus has to be on the Black Ferns.

“There’s undoubtedly been a real lift in their fitness and that’s something that Wayne Smith has always had a reputation for; having fit sides so that they think better, they’re in the deep minutes of games, they’re in the fight, so I think that’s probably a positive for them.

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“They’re going to have to move these bigger women around because they’re a much more mobile side I think the Black ferns and that’s their opportunity.

“I tell you what, momentum in a World Cup is huge, huge confidence for the players if they can get big crowds and everybody in the country gets behind them.”

Mils Muliaina agreed that the home crowd could be a huge boost for the Kiwis, as well as alluding to the Black Ferns incredible success rate at World Cups to date.

“History is on our side,” Muliaina said. “Don’t get me wrong we’ve got plenty of history to back that up.

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“I think what they need is home crowd advantage in terms of the voice our people are going to give them because they’re in for a biggie, you know, France, the Irish, England as well, they’re massive.

“You talk about the analysing, I think Wayne Smith, he’s smart, he would’ve known how they wanted to play so they’ve picked a team so that when they get to the final stage, they can play a different style that we haven’t quite seen.

“They’re in for a biggie, this is going to be a massive task for the girls and I just hope they get up.

Sir John Kirwin agreed with all sentiments shared and implored the team to lean into their individuality and identity.

“For me it’s really important we play our style and I think if we’re fit enough, we play our style and we’ll be hard to beat.

“I like that about what Wayne (Smith)’s brought, we’re not worried about how big and how mobile the English and the French are, we’re going to play our style.”

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