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'Immersed himself': How Sir Graham Henry is helping the Black Ferns

By Sam Smith
Former All Blacks coaches Wayne Smith and Graham Henry have reunited to try replicate their success with the Black Ferns. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Black Ferns head coach and former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith revealed how far the Black Ferns are going to prepare for their opponents, leaving no stone unturned as they prepare for their next match against Wales.

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The new Black Ferns coaching staff has a ton of World Cup-winning experience with Smith aided by former All Blacks and 2011 World Cup-winning head coach Graham Henry.

Smith revealed that Henry has been studying every single team the Black Ferns will face, regardless of perceived strength, as they attempt to win a sixth World Cup title.

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“We have watched every game of every team that is here over the last two years, so we are well versed on the likes of Wales and Scotland,” Smith told media at the team announcement.

“We have done the homework on those previous games and the ones last weekend.

“Ted [Graham Henry] has immersed himself in the hours of video work. As to northern teams and the way that they play… rugby is rugby and you can play it many ways and I don’t think there is a northern way and a southern way, England are the best in the world at present, but they play to their strengths upfront and to a very good backline.”

After a rocky start at Eden Park the Black Ferns responded with 41 unanswered points to down the Wallaroos in their opening World Cup fixture in front of a record crowd.

After the match Smith said his side may have been ‘overwhelmed’ by the atmosphere which many were experiencing for the first time.

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The Black Ferns have adjusted by playing crowd noise at their trainings over loud speakers to get used to the noise.

They will play Wales at Waitakere Stadium on Sunday, which is also sold out, and have made a host of changes to the starting side, including moving the Player of the Match Ruby Tui from the wing into the No 15 jersey.

“We are giving everyone opportunities, we’ve got a really strong squad including our outside backs,” Smith said.

“Its all about combinations and we don’t know what is down the track and Ruby shows all the tendencies to be able to play fullback.

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“She works hard, covers a lot of ground, gives us cover in the position if needed, and gives us another option as we move forward.

“As I said we have a strong squad and it’s all about which 15 will take the field for a particular match, it might not be the 15 best players, but those who operate together well as a team and in combinations.”

The Black Ferns wingers were rewarded on the end of the slick backline with five tries against Australia, with Tui grabbing a double and Portia Woodman scoring a hat-trick.

Tui was excited about the chance to move into fullback and link with her wings which is still one of the more potent back three units at the World Cup.

“It’s exciting, Smithy is always thinking about how we play. We have grown so much as a team in the last 12 months, my eyes are lighting up at the opportunity to be honest.

“The cool thing is I have the experienced Renee [Wickliffe] on the right and another good friend of mine [Portia Woodman] on the other wing so we have solid connections on the field.

“Fullback is all about reading the game and I feel we have six eyes looking after that. It’s always an honour to wear the jersey and I would play prop if I had to.”

 

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