'We're hissing to get out there and have a crack': Black Ferns ready to end 2014 hurt

Eloise Blackwell and her side are using that losing dressing room feeling to their advantage this time out.

5 AUGUST 2014. A day of ecstasy for Irish rugby, but a dark, dark day for New Zealand.

The Black Ferns’ run of four straight World Cup titles came crashing down, as Ireland shocked the world — the scoreboard in Marcoussis reading 14-17.

Ailis Egan and Gillian Bourke Ireland players celebrate as the Black Ferns stand together in dejection. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Absolute devastation for Eloise Blackwell and her side. Their first defeat in the global tournament since 1991.


But here they are, on the home soil of those who ruined their 2014 World Cup party, ready for battle on the world’s biggest stage yet again.

“I definitely don’t want to be feeling that again,” Blackwell tells The42.

“The biggest thing for me was looking around the changing room after and just seeing all of the older girls that had been there before, and knowing that it was their last World Cup and we hadn’t come away with for them.

“That feeling is what we thrive on now. Knowing what we felt, and we don’t want to feel that again.”

But that’s all in the past now. All eyes are on the present, and what’s lined up in UCD over the coming days.

Eloise Blackwell scores a try Eloise Blackwell in action at the 2014 WRWC. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Obviously, it’s three years on and we’ve got a new management and a good bunch of girls and we’re all here for each other to really have another go at it.

“We’re really excited. Look, the build-up has been happening for us since the last World Cup. Since then, we’ve had heaps of series which has been really good for us. We’ve had time to play as a team, which we hadn’t had so much in the past so that’s been a real benefit for us.

“Since landing in Ireland, there’s just a real feeling of excitement. I guess the word that would describe us is that we’re just ‘hissing’ to get out there and have a crack.

First on the agenda for the Black Ferns is a meeting with Wales — the side they demolished 63-7 in their fifth place play-off match at the 2014 tournament.

Remarkably physical and skillful, New Zealand are of course up there among the favourites, but Blackwell insists that it’s something they keep to the back of their minds.

Placed in a Pool A, which also contains 2014 finalists Canada and WRWC debutantes Hong Kong, the talented lock says that they’ll take the tournament game by game, leading with the Welsh challenge.

There is of course an end goal though.

AIG Black Ferns Training Session Blackwell takes a selfie with young rugby players at a training session for the AIG Heroes programme. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

“Just what I can remember from them [Wales] is that they had a really good back line, they had some fast wingers out wide,” she recalls. “I guess we’re expecting the same again. We haven’t really seen too much off them to be honest, but we can’t underestimate any teams.

“We look at each game as it comes. Our focus now is on the Welsh tomorrow, and after that game we’ll move on to Hong Kong, and following that game, onto the Canadians.

“Anything can change, anything can happen at a World Cup. We’ve just got to take each game as it comes and roll with it.

“For us, it’s about putting in a performance out there. We won’t take any team lightly. Every team is a threat to us. We just go into it with the thought of putting out a good performance, and obviously coming away with the win is the ultimate goal for us.”

In terms of her own squad, the selection is a a mix of experience and fresh talent. Captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili is preparing for her fifth World Cup, while there are two new caps and others with just a handful of Test matches under their belts.

“It’s the perfect mix for us, that’s all we need,” she smiles, as she speaks of the youth challenging the more experienced girls, and the knowledge of previous World Cup experiences that the likes of Fa’amausili can provide.

AIG Black Ferns Training Session Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

With the 15s scene in New Zealand still amateur, Blackwell’s finds herself in the classroom, or more the PE hall on a day-to-day basis.

It’s definitely a ‘balancing act,’ she smiles, and while professionalism is something she wouldn’t say no to in the future, it’s all about the love of the game at the end of the day.

“It’s just being able to find a good balance between our work and our rugby. Because of us not being professional athletes, it’s just something we have to work with.

“It would be nice for it to lean that way. But obviously, we’re playing for the love of the game. If contracts were to come around it would be really awesome, but for the time being, we’re just enjoying playing rugby.

“It’s cool because you almost lead two lives — you’ve got your rugby job, and you’ve got your other time job.”

And with that love of the game, comes immense pride in the jersey. The honour of representing her country at the highest level means the world to Blackwell. And her fellow Black Ferns.

“It’s massive. With the rich history of the Black Ferns, and it is really for the love of the game that we do play. We love the environment that has been created by past players, and the legacy that we live by — it’s just an awesome feeling to be a part of.”

AIG, proud supporters of women in sport, were in Westmanstown RFC yesterday to facilitate a training session and inspirational talk with the New Zealand Black Ferns, Charlene Gubb, Eloise Blackwell, and Hazel Tubic, as part of their AIG Heroes programme, an initiative that strives to support young kids all over Ireland by giving them a chance to meet sporting role models. 

Declan O’Rourke, General Manager Ireland presented a cheque to the value of $5,000 to Westmanstown Youth Rugby Club to help support the development of their girls underage rugby structures.

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