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'The rugby comes naturally': The key to the Black Ferns' RWC success

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Fiona Goodall - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Star centre Stacey Fluhler has revealed the key to the Black Ferns’ success following their epic World Cup run last year.

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The Black Ferns captured the hearts of a nation as they dared to dream of a once seemingly unlikely World Cup triumph in front of their home supporters.

New Zealand had lost two tests against both England and France during their end-of-season tour the year before; they were beaten by emphatic margins in all four matches.

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World No. 1 England were the heavy favourites going into the tournament, while France appeared to pose the biggest threat to the Red Roses World Cup dreams.

But don’t forget about the hosts.

Under the tutelage of super coach Wayne Smith, who had won two men’s World Cups as an assistant coach with the All Blacks, the Black Ferns turned their form around in a big way.

The Black Ferns beat France in a thrilling semi-final at Eden Park, before recording an epic upset win over the Red Roses in the decider a week later.

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New Zealand were champions of the women’s rugby world for a sixth time, and were more than deserving of that moniker.

Speaking with British rugby magazine Rugby World, Stace Fluhler spoke about how important it was for the Black Ferns to get to know each other better off the field.

“We’re here for rugby, but we’re also here to enjoy each other’s company and have a good time. (So) get that right, the rugby comes naturally,” Fluhler told Rugby World, as reported by the All Blacks website.

“What made our World Cup win so special was that we had a very new team. I loved that stat about our whole starting pack having fewer caps than Sarah Hunter!

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“Having a young, eager team who were keen to learn changed things.

“We obviously had experienced players there to help guide the team and share stuff from the past. But it was quite cool to have that change and be able to adapt to Smithy’s coaching.”

Rugby guru Wayne Smith was appointed as a technical coach in April, but was later named the head coach of the Black Ferns after Glenn Moore resigned.

Smith, who was already widely considered one of the greatest rugby minds in New Zealand rugby history, was able to add to his legacy after a decorated stint with the team.

The Black Ferns may have made this coaching change about six months out from the World Cup, but as Fluhler discussed, “trusting that it will all work out” played a key role in their success.

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“And no matter how much time you have, if you have a good plan, and you have a good vision, and everyone is into it, you can still be successful,” Fluhler added.

“We had a blank canvas. Smithy knew nothing about us, absolutely nothing.

“He’d never really watched women’s rugby – and he admitted that to us. But we had a lot of talks. Not just about technical and tactical rugby analysis but about life in general. That was crucial to him adapting his training style to us.

“So, for any team in the same boat, changing coach late, it’s about having the right process, the right people, and just trusting that it will all work out.”

More women’s rugby is right around the corner in New Zealand, with Super Rugby Aupiki set to kick off in late February.

Hurricanes Poua will host Chiefs Manawa at Levin Domain in the season opener on Saturday, February 25.

Matatu will also played Blues Women at Forsyth Barr Stadium on the same day.

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