"There has been a lot more work gone on, a lot of players have done a lot of soul searching about the level of fitness and conditioning they now need to combat England. They are in better nick."
The Black Ferns have been bolstered by the inclusion of four players from the World Cup winning team that triumphed in Moscow recently at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013; Kelly Brazier, Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata and Portia Woodman.
"Some of them are well known to us and they are quality players. They bring a bit of confidence back into the team in, certainly in terms of back play."
Woodman was the star of the World Cup, named player of the tournament being the leading try scorer having dotted down 12 times. She brings great pace and a fearsome sidestep which bewildered opponents in Moscow, though has yet to play a game of fifteens.
“Portia is an awesome player, watching her training, she has certainly won over the players pretty quickly.”
Veteran Black Fern Victoria Grant is returning to the team after a year out with injury.
“I’m really excited about this year and to be playing at home. It’s a huge honour to wear the black fern and you just put everything on the line when you are out there playing.”
The team has huge respect for England which is coming off a six match winning streak against the Black Ferns. Saturday’s Test also has added importance being the 1000th women’s Test match.
“Our focus is to be especially strong up front, our forwards need to be really strong and release some quick ball because we want to unleash our backs – with Portia and Renee in the back line it’s going to be really great to get some good ball out to them,” said Grant.
Brian Evans is under no illusion about the challenge over the next 10 days.
“England has a powerful team, they have a lot of depth. We expect what we had last year, big, grunty forwards and their back play has improved out of sight in recent years. They have some backs, if you don’t tackle them, they are going to cut you to ribbons.”
But one big factor in the Black Ferns’ favour, they are playing at home for the first time since 2007 and have been enjoying being out in the community, including school visits.
“It’s fantastic for the girls representing their country to be at home wearing their silver fern and they are loving it.”
LISTEN TO BRIAN EVANS HERE
The first Test is broadcast live on SKY Sport from 5.05pm on Saturday.
Black Ferns v England 2013 International Series
1. Saturday 13 July: Eden Park, Auckland kickoff 5:05pm
2. Tuesday 16 July: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, kickoff 7:00pm
3. Saturday 20 July: ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe, kickoff 2:35pm