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“Amazing feeling to play at Eden Park” – Eloise Blackwell

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allblacks.com     13 Aug 2019     Getty Images

It’s a ground she knows very well, having played on it several times since making her Auckland Storm debut ten years ago. This year, Auckland will play all three of their home Farah Palmer Cup games at Eden Park. 

The Black Ferns stalwart loves playing at home and this occasion will be no different. 

“Every time we get to play at home it’s an amazing feeling. It’s so good to know you have your family and friends in the crowd watching. We make the most of every opportunity because we don’t often play on home soil and when we do our spirits are lifted knowing that everyone is watching us from the stands instead of from behind a TV.”

The steadfast lock, who has played 42 Tests in the black jersey, was stoked with last weekend’s 47-10 victory over the Wallaroos at Optus Stadium in Perth. The Black Ferns have never lost against Australia, but Blackwell says the team won’t get complacent with the Laurie O’Reilly Memorial Trophy on the line. 
“The Aussies are a top team to play against. They are big and they carry hard and they are like the Canadians and USA where they don’t give up and play right until the 80th minute. I guess they have a similar style of rugby to us and with the addition of the Super Rugby competition over there, their skill set has improved, so they will certainly be a threat.”

Eloise, who is known as Ella by her teammates, has been in the Black Ferns set up since 2011. She’s won a World Cup and has seen many changes in the squad. However, her locking combination with Charmaine Smith has been a constant. The duo’s notched up 68 Tests between them and they have no intention of slowing down yet. With the World Cup in New Zealand in 2021 the main focus for the Black Ferns, continuity is key, and coach Glenn Moore has named a very similar team to the one that won the Super Series in San Diego last month. 

“There are a couple of changes, but not a lot which is good for our preparation,” said Blackwell.

“It means we can just build on what we were working on in America and then add all the polish we need to. The addition of our new players like Grace (Brooker) and Kilisitina (Moata’ane) and the return of Jackie (Patea-Fereti) for this series adds some extra enthusiasm too.”

Blackwell grew up on Great Barrier Island and her family still live over there. She’ll have plenty of family and friends on hand to support at Eden Park, as well as some colleagues and students from Epsom Girls Grammar, where the 28-year old is a teacher. 

“I know some staff and students will be coming along. It’s pretty cool to be walking around at school and then people come up to me and say I’ll see you at Eden Park, so it will be awesome to have them there supporting as well.”