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'Ma'a Nonu has flown up twice': Black Ferns tap into All Blacks experience

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith has revealed further details about the wealth of expertise that has flooded in to support the Black Ferns throughout their World Cup campaign.

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Former Black Ferns player Chelsea Semple revealed earlier in the year the team were receiving visits from the likes of Dan Carter, Kevin Mealamu, and Richie McCaw; each offering their experience to the relevant members of the rebuilding Black Ferns squad.

Smith, speaking with Martin Devlin on The Platform, revealed the influence and input of the 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks was ongoing.

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“To have someone like Daniel Carter,” Smith said. “Who most weeks has turned up to take the girls for kicking, phenomenal.

“Ma’a Nonu has flown up twice to meet with Sylvia Brunt, so they’re going out of their way to give us a hand, it’s just outstanding.

“I get messages, 160 odd texts after the game.”

Ali Williams, Ben Smith and Sir Steve Hansen have each been reported to have clocked in for the Black Ferns. Beyond rugby, Smith mentioned Tony Brook of the 1982 gold medal-winning rowing team as well as the Topp Twins – Smith’s “favourite New Zealand act” – were among others to have reached out or visited the team.

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“It’s phenomenal, the support that we’re getting.”

The parallels between this Black Ferns team and the All blacks of 2011 – in a World Cup held at Eden Park – were highlighted last week with the French test, as Smith remarked “I never thought I’d go through a one-point (win) against a French team at Eden Park again in my life.”

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As for the final, Smith identified the pregame and opening minutes of the match as areas to improve, revealing the team had struggled to execute a good warm-up at Eden Park due to the warm-up pitch lacking “environment” with opponents preparing for the match right beside each other.

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“There’s a lot of things isn’t there? There’s the Haka, the anthems and there’s a lot of things that you’ve got to cope with in those first few minutes and we’re trying hard to find ways to handle that but they’re big occasions Marty, and this is another one, so you don’t know the effect it’s going to have on people.

“What I do know, is we’ll keep going at it, mistake or no mistake, we’ll keep going at it.”

The World Cup final will draw the curtain on Wayne Smith’s storied career, he confirmed on the podcast that although he had unretired before, the Black Ferns coaching opportunity was “a unique unretirement” and wouldn’t happen again, as he plans to travel with his wife and revisit the friends he made throughout his rugby journey.

Smith reflected on what he had said to the Black Ferns when he joined the team following a winless Northern Tour in 2021.

“I remember telling the girls early on, ‘we’re going to make the final,  just not going to make it today’, it was a bold statement but I just wanted to make the point that we had a long way to go.”

Smith left an honest take on how the final was likely to play out.

“If you’d asked me two or three months ago, I would have said a one in ten chance if we made the final of beating England. (It) might have gone up slightly.”

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