Black Ferns sign off in style - but with work still to do
The Black Ferns have wrapped up their season with a comprehensive victory over Australia.
Croissants, baguettes and, er, French toast might well be off the menu for the Black Ferns, as they chew over a successful 2019 campaign, that ended with the clinical dispatching of the Wallaroos to retain the Laurie O’Reilly Trophy at Eden Park on Saturday night.
The 37-8 result meant the Black Ferns finished with a handy 5-1 record for the year, suggesting they are tracking well enough towards a successful defence of the World Cup in 2021 .
But, no matter how satisfied they will feel after reaffirming their dominance over a Wallaroos team that has now failed to muster a win against New Zealand in 19 attempts, the Black Ferns will doubtless break camp for the year feeling just a little uneasy.
Both the nature of their lone defeat, and the fact that it once again was suffered at the hands of now fully emerged global power – and newly-minted Black Ferns nemesis - France, suggests there is much work still to be done over what is expected to be an increased schedule of fixtures in 2020.
France’s 25-16 victory over the Black Ferns in Chula Vista, USA, in July followed an historic first, 30-27 triumph in Grenoble the previous November.
While those consecutive failures will have rocked the Black Ferns, they did bounce back with a comprehensive victory over England to claim the 2019 Super Series title in the US, and looked totally assured against a Wallaroos team that is, in fact, improving.
"We're making good progress," coach Glenn Moore told Stuff.
"We've got a long way to go yet, but we're also happy with the fact that we've introduced 13 players over the last 12 months, which is encouraging for us.
"A lot of them have come through our system and programme and we've got some other new ones we're looking to backload in there now. It's an exciting time."
Moore pointed to the development work being done by provincial unions as pivotal in delivering the talent pool required for his team to stay at the top of the international game in the face of a growing threat from the Northern Hemisphere.
"The programmes that we've had in place back in the provincial unions are working, we've got high performance programmes that are being operated by the provincial unions, alongside what we want and need to happen," he said.
"That alliance is working well and we're seeing good progress."
While the now regular double-header dates with Australia are to remain, Moore indicated they would likely be supplemented with encounters with more demanding opposition.
"As the game progresses, and I think we all agree that the women's game is getting a lot of momentum, there will be opportunities for other nations to play here. That's likely to happen in the near future, but these trans-Tasman rivalries are important fixtures.”
For the Black Ferns – and a wider group of 2021 hopefuls – the next assignment is an upgraded Farah Palmer Cup competition that begins on August 31.
This year’s competition features 13 unions, divided into a seven-team premiership and six-team championship.
In the premiership, Auckland avoided relegation last season by virtue of the competition being expanded, while Wellington joins the top division after securing promotion in 2018.
Much like Super Rugby and the Mitre 10 Cup, Canterbury are expected to be the dominant force, with the Kendra Cocksedge-led southerners seeking a third straight title.
An expanded broadcast schedule will see 19 matches screened live by Sky Sports.