14 Nov 2022

Black Ferns: Let's keep riding the World Cup wave

10:29 am on 14 November 2022
Renee Holmes of New Zealand celebrates her try during the Rugby World Cup final against England.

Renee Holmes of New Zealand celebrates her try during the Rugby World Cup final against England. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

The Black Ferns defied expectations to defend their Rugby World Cup title on home soil and all involved wanted to make sure to capitalise on the moment.

Coach Wayne Smith would not be around for the next chapter of the Black Ferns' journey but he was clear about what needed to happen next for women's rugby to keep the momentum from the tournament going.

"We've got to make it count with seven-year-olds, eight-year-olds, nine-year-olds, 10-year-olds who all play Rippa but when they go to high school there's no team or no coach and they'll go and play other sports and they might come back into it but many won't and that's what we've got to get right," Smith said.

Among the hundreds of people gathered in central Auckland on Sunday to celebrate the Black Ferns sixth world title were new fans, long-time supporters and those who one day might pull on their own black jersey.

Fans greet Black Ferns in Auckland

The Black Ferns at the fans celebration event in central Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Veronica Schmidt

Two-time world champion Sarah Hirini had a message for them ahead of the Black Ferns' eight Test matches next year.

"I just want people turning up, I want people supporting us, people following us backing us, sharing us on social media, showing us on TV. Honestly if you can see her you can be her."

The Black Ferns made history by becoming the first host nation to win a women's Rugby World Cup.

In doing so they abruptly ended England's record winning streak at 30 games and gained admiration from the Red Roses coach Simon Middleton.

"The Black Ferns deserved the trophy they have ridden every storm - and a helluva storm over the last eight months - and they've come out the other side of it, for rugby that's a great thing," Middleton said.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson wanted to put that build up to the world cup, which included the review into the Black Ferns culture, behind them and focus on the future.

A future in which he promised increased investment in the women's game and more fixtures domestically and overseas.

Women's world cups are not money makers for World Rugby but it is a burden they are prepared to carry for a few years yet.

This year's tournament director Alison Hughes said the additional Covid protocols needed in New Zealand tipped the budget over.

"We're a long way from profitable at the moment, we're striving for it that will come in time I have no doubt and it's an investment and we're very happy to make that investment and keep investing as we will in 2025 and beyond to make sure the women's game grows and that's perpetual once you invest it becomes attractive it will attract more commercial sponsors more airtime, more attention."

World Rugby chair Sir Bill Beaumont.

World Rugby chair Sir Bill Beaumont. Photo: Photosport

World Rugby chair Sir Bill Beaumont acknowledged there had been a history of under-investment in the women's game but also recognised the limitations the international governing body had in funding women's rugby.

"Every individual union has to invest as well we can't do it in isolation we have to do it in partnership with our member unions we can't dictate to them how they spend their money."

The Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant knew where she wanted New Zealand Rugby to invest.

"For most of us the next competition is Super Rugby Aupiki it'll be great to see that expand from what it was this year maybe playing against some of the Australian teams and the Pacific teams. We've got the introduction of the Pac Four series which is great and Laurie O'Reilly but it would be awesome to get more regular fixtures against these Northern Hemisphere teams"

New Zealand Rugby would not confirm the timeline for finding a new coach for the world champions to replace Wayne Smith.