This year was set to be a ground-breaking one for the Black Ferns, eight Tests in total, seven on home soil. A Test schedule that had never been seen before. But Covid-19 has changed the landscape.
The Black Ferns had their first camp since lockdown over the weekend in Auckland. Head coach Glenn Moore said this year is critical as the build-up begins for the World Cup, which will be hosted in Auckland and Northland in 2021.
“The messaging here with the players is we are not sure exactly what our end of year will look like. I know New Zealand Rugby are working really hard to ensure that we have got some good fixtures to lead us into next year, but whatever comes about, we have to be ready to go. We know that there will be something, but it’s important that we are ready.”
A number of Black Ferns are currently playing club rugby and will then switch into the Farah Palmer Cup, which kicks off on August 22. The camp provided Moore and his assistant coaches, Wesley Clarke and John Haggart a chance to see where their players are at. Moore said the intensity now has to lift for the players who aspire to play at the World Cup.
“Farah Palmer Cup is really important this year, it always is, but it’s become more important due to the fact that we’ve lost some games. We’ve got aspiring Black Ferns in there, we’ve got older Black Ferns in that comp and now we’ve got some of the Sevens players in there as well. It all bodes well for the level of that competition to go up.”
The camp consisted of the Black Ferns contracted players and a few other up and comers. Moore was happy with how his players handled lockdown and they were put straight into fitness testing on Sunday.
“By in large a lot of them have come back in and done PB’s [personal bests] and that’s really pleasing. We can’t hide from the fact that there is one or two that haven’t got those markers and we’ll work with them to ensure we get that back, but pleasing to see that some of them in extreme circumstances have been able to adapt and find ways of getting the same sort of work done using different gear. They have turned up here really excited.”
Moore was particularly pleased with how new Bay of Plenty lock Kelsie Wills performed, in the absence of Charmaine Smith, who was forced to retire last month due to injury.
“I think Kelsie was outstanding. We’ve lost Charmaine out of the group and she’s always been a really well conditioned player and Kelsie has come in and she’s put out some really good times as well.”
Next year’s Rugby World Cup runs from 18 September to 16 October, with matches to be played at Waitakere Stadium, Northland Events Centre and Eden Park. The Farah Palmer Cup draw is expected to be released in the coming weeks.