Retiring No 8 Casey Robertson made a plea to New Zealand rugby bosses to keep the women's test programme busy as the Black Ferns ended a disappointing World Cup with fifth place in France yesterday.
New Zealand showed their true potential with a 55-5 demolition of the United States in the playoff for fifth and sixth in Paris. They ran in nine tries, with right wing Honey Hireme scoring four.
The four-time world champions then had to watch England claim the title with a 21-9 win over Canada in the final. France beat Ireland 25-18 to win the bronze medal.
Robertson, 33, was thrilled with yesterday's performance but disappointed to end her lengthy career out of the medals.
"We came out with a good result against the United States, just not what I anticipated coming into the tournament," Robertson said.
She said that after 12 years, it would be "hard to let go, it becomes part of your life".
With the 15s game under threat from the rapid emergence of women's sevens, especially as they head towards their Olympics debut in Brazil in 2016, Robertson said it was important to keep the Black Ferns in focus.
"The (New Zealand) union really came on board with us this year and put together a good programme for the girls which was really good," she said.
"Unfortunately we couldn't achieve our goals, but if they keep with us and keep the test matches up for the girls they can only build. They need the games to build up our confidence and our systems, the girls need time together."
New Zealand coach Brian Evans felt the future remained bright despite this failed campaign.
"I think the team will be strong," Evans said, delighted with the way young No 10 Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali ran the cutter against America.
"That's awesome . . . there are a group of players in there that are really capable.
"There's some senior players talking about retiring. You don't know with women's rugby but I wouldn't be surprised if I see some of them back next year. They love the game, they have a passion for it and I'm going to encourage some of them to stay around for the next group coming through."
Evans said he was proud of his team's finish under difficult circumstances and the way they had reacted to their costly loss to Ireland earlier in the tournament.
"We showed what a good side we are and I'm really proud of them. It would have been easy to button off and just go out and get a result. But they were determined to get a really good result and play really well.
"When we went forward, recycled ball and spread it, we looked a million bucks."
Meanwhile, Canada wing Magali Harvey was named the IRB women's player of the year.
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