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‘Great for us’: Wallaroos look to deepen ‘hurt’ for ‘wounded’ Black Ferns

By Finn Morton
New Zealand Black Ferns before the Haka against the Austalian Wallaroos during the Pool A Rugby World Cup 2021 New Zealand match between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park on October 08, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Greg Bowker/Getty Images)

Winger Maya Stewart believes Australia have an opportunity to “climb on the back” of Canada’s historic upset win over New Zealand when they take on the Kiwis at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

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Canada claimed the Pacific Four Series title for the first time on Sunday when the playing group etched their names into rugby folklore with a 22-19 win over the Black Ferns at Christchurch’s Apollo Projects Stadium.

About 24 hours earlier, the United States of America had rallied from a half-time deficit to claim their own slice of history with a win over Australia in Melbourne. Both defeats set the stage for a must-win Trans-Tasman Test match north of Auckland.

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Australia needs to beat New Zealand for the first time ever in a women’s Test match in order to keep their hopes of qualifying for WXV1 alive. As for the Black Ferns, they’ll be “hurt” and eager to make amends of sorts against their fierce rivals.

“It was definitely disappointing for us as a group but I think everyone’s really keen to turn things around,” Australia’s Maya Stewart told reporters on Tuesday.

“Canada showed last week that New Zealand can be beaten so we’re definitely up for the challenge.

“Every game is a Test match and it’s not just a one-sided game. We’re definitely competitive and Canada showed that last week.

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(New Zealand) are going to be wounded, they’re going to be hurt and I think it’d be great for us to just climb on the back of that.”

Earlier this year, Rugby Australia made the headline-grabbing decision to name highly regarded coach Jo Yapp into the Wallaroo’s top job. With a World Cup on home soil only five years away, this was an exciting appointment that had the rugby world talking.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
5
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
47
8
First try wins
60%
Home team wins
60%

But, at least so far, the results haven’t quite been there. The Aussies lost to Canada 33-14 at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium to open their Pacific Four Series campaign, and the defeat to the USA followed last time out in Melbourne.

Wallaroos flanker Siokapesi Palu told reporters that the Australians have plenty of potential and that the results will come, and teammate Maya Stewart had a similar view after the team’s first two Tests of the year.

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Stewart, who has played 10 Test matches for the Wallaroos, said the team are experiencing some “teething issues” but the speedy outside back remains confident the Wallaroos are heading in the right direction.

“Jo’s come on board and it’s so refreshing to have a new coach and we’re still learning under her,” Stewart said.

“The Canada game was exciting for us. We were in that and then same as the USA game – we were in it until we weren’t.

“I think that’s what’s exciting about this week. It’s a new game, it’s a new chapter. We’re able to come out and maybe put that all together for the full 80 which we haven’t done for the last two games.

“Definitely tough conversations,” she added when asked about the USA game. “There’s a fine line between aggression and discipline.

“Obviously we’re looking to be more aggressive as a team but as well in the same regard we want to be disciplined as well.”

The Wallaroos have a tall mountain to climb as they look to book their ticket to WXV1. Australia have never beaten New Zealand, but that needs to change this weekend in order for the Wallaroos to qualify for the prestigious competition.

Australia need to beat their Kiwi rivals, and also claim a winning bonus point, to avoid a fourth-place finish in the Pacific Four Series.

“It’s massive. We want to be in WXV1 – that’s exactly where we want to be. We’re a team that can compete in WXV1.

“If we don’t come away with it, we’re in WXV2 and we’ll compete there as well. Regardless of the outcome this weekend we’re going to come away and we’re still going to be competitive.

“WXV1, you’re 100 per cent right, that’s where we (want to be) so this game is massive.”

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