READER REPORT:

A new era for women's rugby?

CHANTAL BAKER
Last updated 08:00 20/08/2014

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The Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 is 'done and dusted' and some fantastic rugby was showcased at the Stade de Jean Bouin on the semi-finals and final game days.

This World Cup had the kind of twisted results that would suit any thriller novel - where expectations were both exceeded and lost by competing teams.

The obvious twist in the story had to be the Black Ferns' dramatic and historic 14-11 loss to Ireland in pool play. It was this game that set the course for the Black Ferns to crash out of semi-finals contention.

As a devoted Black Ferns fan who travelled to Paris to watch the World Cup, this scene was utterly disappointing for me, but I managed to gain perspective by imagining the heartache felt by the players and team management themselves.

There must be admiration for the Black Ferns team who were extremely graceful in defeat, accepting the responsibility for their loss, and crediting Ireland for a fine display of rugby against them.

Due to this loss they would be playing for 5th or 6th rather than 1st or 2nd.

The messages that came from the team camp were ones of consistency and reflection. Multiple messages from individual players expressed expected disappointment, but remained full of focus to finish their final two games with pride for themselves and New Zealand rugby. And this they did, walloping Wales 63-7 and thumping USA 55- 5 to take 5th.

It must be hard being so good for so long, setting records that will inevitably be broken at some point in time.

Take the All Blacks this week who were aiming for a record 18 consecutive wins, to be faulted by a 12 all draw to the Wallabies. As the saying goes 'all good things must come to an end'.

For the Black Ferns there was pressure and expectation to achieve a 5-peat world championship. Oh how naïve we were sitting at the bottom of the globe in a haze of confidence, so used to winning.

I may be a big fan, but at this point there really is nothing to do but get over it - that's sport, it's time to move on.

There's a brand spanking new world champion for 2014 - our arch rival England.

England dominated the final against Canada (an unexpected opponent and twist in the tail) in a clinical match, winning 21-9.

Good on England. Their rugby union has invested in the women's development infrastructure since the 2010 World Cup, and they've achieved what they were aiming for.

And on a side note it seems the Black Ferns also had a hand in the England development... and come to think of it, Canada too!

Canada toured NZ in July as part of their build up to the world cup, losing two tests to the (now) former world champions. They would have undoubtedly gained experience that helped them reach the final by playing the best.

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But the fact remains, England are now number one in the world and the Black Ferns are 5th.

Another fact is the Black Ferns remain the benchmark of this sport - holding a record of four consecutive world titles and  losing only one game in 16 years (over four World Cup tournaments).

So, how will the Black Ferns win the world title back? Or is this the start of a new era with new countries rising to take our place?


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