“We’ve got a year now to get even fitter, faster, stronger” – Kendra Cocksedge

Kenj Ella

The recommendation to postpone the tournament until next year will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on 8 and 9 March, respectively.

Black Ferns stalwarts Eloise Blackwell and Kendra Cocksedge fronted the media via Zoom on Wednesday (NZT) and even though they were completely gutted, they remained upbeat about the decision and the prospect of a World Cup in a years’ time.

“We were pretty devastated to be honest”, said Blackwell, who had been out for a run with flat mate and fellow Black Ferns teammate Aleisha-Pearl Nelson when she received the news.

“But essentially nothing changes, I was upset for a couple of hours but now you know, same goal, same grind. [We’re] still going to be working towards 2022 if that’s what’s decided by the board in a weeks’ time.”

Cocksedge woke up to an email this morning and said words can’t really explain how disappointed she is that this has happened.

“Our focus right now, for me and Eloise as leaders in this side is to get around the girls and check in on each other and make sure they are doing ok. There is going to be a lot of mixed emotions within this side.

“But we’ve got a year now to get even fitter, faster, stronger. It’s just probably around mentally preparing, and I know NZR (New Zealand Rugby) will work really hard to get an international schedule of some sort in place and hopefully get some games this year for us to be able to have better prep leading into a World Cup in 2022.”

NZR CEO Mark Robinson confirmed they will be working on exactly that, to make sure the Black Ferns have the best chance of defending their title.

“We are really committed to making sure the Black Ferns will have a meaningful campaign and schedule this year. We need more time to be able to decide exactly what that looks like but certainly them hosting teams or touring themselves is part of those considerations that we will look at in more detail in the coming weeks.”

The Black Ferns, like other teams, have been preparing for this World Cup for the last four years and Blackwell said the wider squad came into this year in extremely good nick.

“A lot of sacrifices were made to put them [players] in a good position for this year, but for me personally that just adds fire to the belly and fuels my fight to continue and want to be here come 2022.”

As for Cocksedge, who is set to play her fourth World Cup, she’s got some big decisions to make about her future now that plans have changed.

“It’s pretty tough to say no or move on from a World Cup on home turf. I’m just taking this time to sit back and process and give myself time to think about how this year is going to look like for me. But yeah, [I’m] still highly motivated that there is a World Cup on home turf and at the end of the day borders will hopefully be open and we will be able to get lots of support from family and friends and people outside of the country as well.”

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