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'Relentless and ruthless': Black Ferns zoned in ahead of World Cup

By Ned Lester
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The Black Ferns took care of business on Saturday night with a mammoth 95-12 victory over Japan. But it was the way they went about their win that has pundits impressed and optimistic for the World Cup.

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Since the Black Ferns disappointing northern tour last year, a lot has happened. There was a complete upheaval of coaching staff, culture, and a raft of new players entered the picture, as well as Super Rugby Aupiki being established.

Their final hit out before the World Cup closed a significant chapter in the team’s history. Now, the women in black face a new era of competition in a resurgent era of their own.

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Ex-Blues hooker James Parsons and ex-Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall discussed the teams evolution on this weeks episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod:

“The improvements that I love to see,” Hall said. “(And) how they’re going to win against the northern hemisphere teams, is winning the breakdown area, it’ going to be crucial against the like of England and France.

“But their attacking ability, how they’ve been able to play, whether its been through tips through contact, the ability to play out the back, the attacking kicks that we saw a little bit on the weekend which I liked, that kind of involvement that Wayne Smith has brought into that group.

“So it’s all there for them, but do they go in as favourites? I don’t think so.

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“England haven’t lost a test match in how long?

“The confidence they (the Black Ferns) should have in the improvements that they’ve made since that northern hemisphere tour has been great.

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The kiwi team played four tests in Europe last year, two against both England and France respectively.

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They suffered heavy defeats in all four meetings, returning home with 166 points scored against them and just 47 points in their favour.

James Parsons added to Hall’s praise, emphasising the teams mentality as a huge area of improvement under coach Wayne Smith.

“What I love most about it was it’s almost like the scoreboard wasn’t there,” Parsons added. “They were just as relentless and ruthless when it was 0-0, when it was 95(-12).

“I think that’s the biggest sign that they are so focused and zoned in for what’s coming and they’re so ready.

“It’s just classic Wayne Smith style, he is just a coach that instils belief but he also instils an edge that you don’t button off until that full time hooter.

“I think it’s his quote that he says ‘the fans don’t really care about the result, they just want to see you leave a little bit of yourself out there’

“It’s so true, you can accept a defeat if you’ve emptied the tank, that’s what it looked like to me, it looked like a team that didn’t care what the score was, they were going to be efficient in all their roles and everything until the end.”

The half time score was 45-7, almost exactly half of the final score, a perfect example of how the team maintained their intensity and dominance throughout the game.

Both panelists agreed the past 10 months must have see a huge amount of work within the Black Ferns camp, explaining how the execution of their offensive structures looked to be second nature to all the players.

“You look at the animation when it comes to their tip play with their forwards,” Hall noted. “They’re all running the same role, they’re all running the same tip lines, they’re running square, they’re out the back, there’s animation off that, that comes back to repetition and understanding and knowing your game plan to a T.”

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