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‘Sh*t yeah, I love losing’: Black Ferns Sevens stunned by France

By Finn Morton
The Black Ferns Sevens huddle up at the Hong Kong Sevens. Picture: World Rugby.

Black Ferns Sevens great Portia Woodman-Wickliffe has explained why she loves losing after New Zealand were stunned by France 26-21 in a thrilling Pool A clash at Hong Kong Stadium.

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Vancouver and Los Angeles Cup final winners New Zealand looked promising in their opening two pool matches as they recorded strong wins over Great Britain and Brazil.

But their upcoming opponents France, who are only one place behind the Kiwis on the overall SVNS Series standings, were equally as impressive during their two wins over the same opponents.

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Finn Morton spoke with Portia Woodman-Wickliffe after New Zealand’s shock loss to France. Picture: World Rugby.

In the last women’s pool game on day two at the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens, milestone woman Machaela Blyde inspired New Zealand’s red-hot start with a rapid double inside five minutes.

NRLW-bound Stacey Waaka also added to the Black Ferns Sevens’ score just after the break, but Les Bleues fought their way back with tries to Jade Ulutule and Chloe Jacquet.

The fixture was decided with the final play of the match. With New Zealand left defending on their own try line, Seraphine Okemba crashed over for the match-winning score.

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“I think we look at that game and a lot of it comes from our little mistakes,” Portia Woodman-Wickliffe told RugbyPass. “Not taking anything away from France, they bring pressure.

“We see them playing exactly the way we like to play so they’re the best team in the world so we’re grateful to have that experience.

“To lose, it gives you fire, it allows you to go home and go back and learn and grow from there. Looking forward to the next one – we don’t know who’ve got next.”

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That defeat is the Black Ferns Sevens’ first pool stage defeat of the 2023/24 season. It’s also their first loss since their thrilling quarter-final defeat to arch-rivals Australia at SVNS Perth in January.

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But as the old sporting cliché goes, you learn more from your losses than your wins. As the defending champions here in Hong Kong China, the New Zealanders still seem supremely confident.

It wasn’t just their all-business demeanour as they walked down the tunnel which sparked confidence, but also Woodman-Wickliffe’s candid explanation of why losing can be a positive.

“Sh*t yeah, sh*t yeah. I love losing and we’re grateful that we had France in a pool round and not a quarter or a semi-final,” the all-time Rugby World Cup leading try scorer said

“To experience that gives us fuel. It allows us to go check ourselves because there were some moments we left out on the field – drop ball, penalties, all that sort of stuff.

“It allows us to go home and work on that.”

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Flankly 9 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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