Preview: Black Ferns v Wales
allblacks.com 14 Aug 2014 Getty Images
The four-time World Champions were squeezed out of the fourth qualifying spot courtesy of a surprise pool-play draw between England and Canada in the weekend, but that’s now firmly in the past according to coach Brian Evans.
“We talked about it openly and acknowledged what happened, but you can’t dwell on it forever - the sun still comes up as they say and we’ve moved on.
“The girls just really want to play again and go out there and nail a performance.”
Evans has made eight changes to his starting side with two of them forced by tournament ending leg injuries to lock Sanita Levave and Sevens star Huriana Manuel.
The other six changes are spread evenly amongst the forwards and the backs and Evans said they were more part of the overall plan then any drastic measures.
“We hoped to play a few of these girls against the USA but the game turned into a must-win and changed our thinking a bit.
“We had to freshen a few players up and it now looks a very exciting team.” Evans added.
Kathleen Wilton and Aleisha Nelson form a new propping combination, while Jackie Patea returns to the second row with loose forward Aroha Savage getting her first start of the tournament at blindside flanker.
Canterbury half-back Kendra Cocksedge forms a brand new nine-ten combination with Otago playmaker Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali - who’s promising plenty of running rugby.
“I’m fired up and can’t wait to get out there,” enthused the 22-year-old who starts her first ever World Cup match.
“There’s still heaps to play for and you know there’s a World Cup in three years as well.”
“Everyone’s got a bit of flair so we are just going to go out there and try and kill it.” She added.
The other changes to the backline see Claire Richardson move into the midfield to cover Manuel’s injury, with her spot on the wing taken by Honey Hireme, while Shakira Baker slots onto the left wing in place of Renee Wickliffe.
“It’s a really good looking back line,” Evans said.
“They’ll want to express themselves I’m sure, that’s how they like to play. It’s just picking the time and place when that’s on. I guess they do want to show everyone at home and the rest of the world how exciting they can be and how well they can play.”
Although they’re no longer contesting the major prize that they wanted so dearly, captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili was adamant her side still had plenty to play for.
“We want to play Black Ferns rugby and prove that we’re still the best in the world.
“It’s good to give some of the younger girls a go because they’ve got a lot more games to play for New Zealand in the future and will want to prove a point.”
Their efforts will be roared on by what is expected to be a sold-out Stade Jean Bouin in central Paris tomorrow morning.
“It’s an awesome stadium and the girls are still buzzing so we just can’t wait to come out and play,” Fa’amausili added following a short and sharp captain’s run at the ground.
The Welsh challenge is expected to be a typically Northern one with lots of forward play and plenty of physicality.
Evans acknowledged that Wales had improved a lot from the side who were soundly beaten 41-8 by the Black Ferns at the last World Cup in 2010.
“We’ve had a good look and they’ve got a really good forward pack - with a good scrum and a solid line-out.
"We know it’s going to be a big challenge and that we’re a target for teams, as a win over us would make their tournament.” Evans noted.
The winner of New Zealand and Wales will meet the victor of Australia’s clash with the USA in the fifth and sixth play-off final on Sunday.
Kick-off is Thursday morning at 1.45am NZT.