Grant, formerly known as Blackledge, is now trying to inspire a new generation of women to win. She has been appointed coach of the Hurricanes Poua for Super Rugby Aupiki 2023 after serving as an assistant to Wesley Clarke in 2022.
“I found out three weeks ago I’d got the position and I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve got strong connections in the Hurricanes region having spent time in Taihape, Whanganui and Wellington. I’ve coached in the secondary school, sevens, and senior men’s spaces. I learnt a lot working with Wesley last year,” Grant said.
Super Rugby Aupiki was severely disrupted by Covid in March with almost the entire Hurricanes squad contracting the virus. Eventually the Hurricanes schedule was reduced from three games to two.
“It was a hard campaign alright but we built a lot of resilience embracing an underdog status with less opportunities than other teams.
“It’s really important to focus on the positives, and the things you can control. We ended up finishing second despite playing one less game than the Chiefs and Matatū.”
The opening round of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki 2023 will kick off on Saturday 25 February with the Hurricanes Poua hosting Chiefs Manawa at 2.05pm in Levin, while Matatū will welcome the Blues to the deep south, hosting in Dunedin at 4.35pm.
Teams will play a round robin format for the first three weeks of competition before heading into play-offs. Semi-finals on Sunday 19 March will determine the two teams in the Final and third/fourth play-off, both of those matches to be held on Saturday 25 March.
Initial squads will be named later in October (date TBC) with each franchise permitted to select 26 players with the capacity to add two more at a later date. In terms of talent recruitment, it’s a case of anything goes with players free to go wherever they like. However Grant is keen to promote local talent and has a clear vision of how the Poua will play.
“The Hurricanes region is known for its X-Factor so we want to play a running game with a high skill-set and lots of strike attack.”
The Black Ferns are embracing a similar methodology ahead of their World Cup defence starting in Auckland this week. In six test wins since June they have scored 42 tries. Grant is encouraged by what she has seen.
“It’s awesome to see how they have turned things around. It takes massive courage by everyone involved to have honest conversations around what happened last year.
“I’m really impressed by the leadership of Ruahei Demant. She carries herself with a lot of Mana and I know having worked with Kennedy Simon she’s cut from the same cloth.
“There’s a good mixture of youth and experience in the squad. I’m so excited for Sylvia Brunt who I coached at the Condor Sevens just a couple of years ago. She’s a serious talent with a bright future.”
England are the most serious threat to the Black Ferns status as World Champions. They have won a world record 25 tests in a row and in centurions’ Sarah Hunter and Emily Scarratt boast experienced personnel that tussled against Grant in the 2010 World Cup.
“England will be seriously motivated to win on New Zealand soil. They really hurt after we beat them in 2010.
“The game is quite different from what it was a dozen years ago. The systems are more advanced and the players are fitter, faster and stronger.
“The English style is very different to the way we play. It’s hard to replicate that pressure and intensity, but hopefully the grind the forwards have been doing will be enough to bridge the gap.”
Grant will be at the World Cup watching games and helping World Rugby run coaching sessions to benefit Pacific Island nations.