It’s been well documented that the Black Ferns haven’t played a Test match since 2019, but they are all set to take on powerhouses, England and France in November up in the Northern Hemisphere.
Skipper Les Elder and veteran winger Renee Wickliffe sat down with the All Blacks Podcast in the Bay of Plenty and discussed all things from World Cup’s to life after rugby.
Listen to the All Blacks Podcast with Les Elder and Renee Wickliffe HERE.
Elder said knowing the team had quarantine spots locked-in at the end of the year and a strong four-Test series has been absolutely key.
“Up until now there has been a little bit of train to train, but now there is train with a purpose because we know what’s coming.”
Wickliffe, who has battled with injury over the last 12 months said it’s going to be great to play some international teams. The 34 year-old starred in their last Test match which was against England in the Super Series in San Diego, scoring a hat-trick in the 28-13 win.
By their own admission, Elder and Wickliffe are a couple of the older members in the Black Ferns squad. They were devastated when the Rugby World Cup was postponed earlier this year, but having watched the Sevens side go through a similar process and take gold at the Olympics, Elder in particular feels at peace with the decision.
“Me and Pango [Wickliffe] are in a similar position to some of the older girls in that team [Black Ferns Sevens] who have families or are looking to start families. The mental toll that it takes for us, we didn’t realise it had hit us as hard as it did.
“Personally, it’s been a godsend for me to be physically ready because I would have just been a year after having my baby. At the time I was fighting for it to go ahead, but in hindsight I think it’s worked out really well, not just for us two, but for the whole team.”
The Black Ferns have a camp in early October before flying out to the UK. They’ll be on tour for five weeks before quarantining for 14-days when they get back to New Zealand.
England and France have had a lot more game time than the Black Ferns, having played in the Six Nations. While people may be saying the Black Ferns will be playing catch up, Elder doesn’t want to rely on that message.
“We just need to focus internally. We do have that good build up and that’s the beauty of tour life is that you get to actually apply your rugby day in day out. Get your combinations right and get your strategic drivers working together”.
She said the rugby component is going to be massive, but so is the culture and connection part of what they do together.
The World Cup in Aotearoa next year will take place in October and November and making that squad remains the number one driver for both Wickliffe and Elder.
Despite a number of injury set-backs, the motivation is still there for Wickliffe.
“When I get injured I’m like that’s it I’m done. But I don’t know what gets me back. It’s watching the girls train, it’s the fire in the belly I guess. It’s still there.”
Wickliffe is currently coaching her daughter’s Under 9 side and is loving it, saying it may be an avenue she pursues once she hangs up the boots.
It’s the opposite for her teammate, who doesn’t know if coaching is for her.
“I definitely have a passion in the governance space, so I’m doing a bit of work in that area of the game. I have some aspirations down that path, but we will see,” said Elder.
For information about the Black Ferns’ end of year tour, visit HERE.
For information about the Rugby World Cup, visit HERE.