Shakira back to best form

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 03/07/2014
Shakira Baker
FAITH SUTHERLAND/Fairfax NZ

GOOD HEALTH: Shakira Baker is in a squad of 26 going to France for next month's World Cup.

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Manawatu's Shakira Baker is back to full health just in time to help the Black Ferns try to win their fifth World Cup in a row.

Baker is in a squad of 26 going to France for next month's World Cup, along with Manawatu team-mates Selica Winiata and Ruth McKay, which is essentially the same squad that played four home tests last month.

The Black Ferns played Canada twice, Australia and Samoa in World Cup, but before that, Baker hadn't played for the Black Ferns since their tour of England in 2012.

A winger or midfielder, she was out of action last year because of heart surgery, and a knee injury has slowed her down this year.

She played three of the tests, coming off the bench against Samoa and starting the two against Canada.

"It was good to get back into it," she said. "I haven't played 15s in a while and being on the wing was good to ease my way back into it."

The 22-year-old said she still had a bit to do after the feedback she received after the series, but that would come right with playing games, and neither her heart nor knee were hindering her now.

"Nothing's stopping me now. I can go as hard as I want.

"It's still going to take time to get the form I want. I've just got to be patient."

Also a member of the national sevens side, Baker played in Dubai at the start of the year, but missed the final round in Amsterdam with injury. She is in a sevens training camp and in three weeks heads to the World Cup. Once back it's straight into a busy sevens programme until November.

New Zealand are aiming to win their fifth World Cup in a row, a record Baker said they were keen to maintain, but it wouldn't be easy.

The World Cup kicks off on August 1 in France.

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- Manawatu Standard

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