7 Jul 2020

Provincial rugby will be women's World Cup warm-up

4:22 pm on 7 July 2020

There is no timeframe on when the Black Ferns will get to play international rugby again.

Black Ferns centre Chelsea Alley in game against England.

Chelsea Alley Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2016 www.photosport.nz

The world champions were to play USA this month in Dunedin and Australia in two matches, in Melbourne and Wellington, in August but these games are unlikely to go ahead due to border restrictions.

Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore said matches against Australia at the end of the year were the most likely scenario for New Zealand's next international fixtures.

However, New Zealand Rugby was also working on Plan B.

"I know the NZR are working hard to ensure that there is some fixtures for us this year, they actually realise the importance that we have a home World Cup, so it adds a wee bit more pressure, and the build-up to that is vital," Moore said.

New Zealand will host the first women's Rugby World Cup to be held in the southern hemisphere in Auckland and Whangārei in 2021.

Despite Covid-19 and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, World Rugby's general manager for women's rugby Katie Sadlier said the World Cup would not be moved from the timeslot of September and October next year.

So plans for the Black Ferns title defense need to press on even if they take a detour.

Glenn Moore

Black Ferns head coach Glenn Moore. Photo: Photosport

The Black Ferns were in a training camp in Auckland this week and Moore said he challenged the players to return to club rugby with the same intensity.

"We're trying to work hard to ensure that we've got plans in place for all various scenarios that could come off and the messaging we've given the players is we've got to be in the best possible position no matter what is held up to us to be ready to go, there is a big emphasis on conditioning and ensuring we're the fittest, strongest team in the world," Moore said.

Moore said he was frustrated that the international programme that was to have the Black Ferns playing eight Test matches in 2020, seven of which were to be on home soil, was uncertain.

However, he said New Zealand players were in a better position than their international counterparts.

"I see that we've got a little advantage at the moment and I know the English and France and them will still have their Six Nations and they probably see that as a level of competition that will give them a little bit of an advantage, but right now we've got the advantage because we're up and going."

Moore said there would be further regional Black Ferns camps in the coming months but acknowledged the Farah Palmer Cup would be a vital part of the squad's build-up to the World Cup.

The Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) kicks off in August and will include Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens players who are eager for game time with the international calendar up in the air.

NZR were slow to announce the FPC competition start date and were criticised by current and former players who said the governing body owed it to the players to have the domestic competition running ahead of the World Cup.

Black Fern Chelsea Alley, who plays for Waikato in the FPC said the inclusion of the international players would make this season's FPC "the best level of competition ever".

"FPC is really special to our girls, we love playing for our provinces, so that is the highest level we are going to get within New Zealand so it's definitely important that that competition is back up and running just to prepare us for internationals later down the line or even for World Cup next year," Alley said.

Grace Brooker of Canterbury scores a try

Grace Brooker Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It has been nearly one year since Grace Brooker made her debut for the Black Ferns.

So far this season she has been restricted to club rugby for the Lincoln Uni Ewes and will turn out for Canterbury in the FPC but Brooker knows the difference between playing locally and internationally is significant.

"It's awesome seeing a lot of the skills we are doing here with the Black Ferns and in higher level rugby transferring down to the club teams so the quality is definitely picking up," Brooker said.

"It would be nice to get some international games in because it is a big step up but I am sure the girls will all step up and take it into their own hands if they have to and hopefully FPC will be bigger and better than normal and gets us well prepared for World Cup."