Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

ANALYSIS: It was a trip they needed, but the Black Ferns come home from Europe battered and bruised after suffering the four biggest defeats in their history.

World champion Kiwis first arrived in England with a 21-7 defeat to the English in 2011 as their biggest loss.

This loss margin of 14 points was more than doubled in 43-12 and 56-15 losses in their opening trials against world No. 1 England coming to New Zealand next year as big favorites for the Rugby World Cup starting in October.

Black Ferns are set to play their first World Cup at home next year.

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce / Getty Images

Black Ferns are set to play their first World Cup at home next year.

France were also far too strong in two Tests, winning 38-13 and 29-7, making it four consecutive victories over New Zealand since 2018 for their thriving side.

READ MORE:
* Black Ferns end victory-free tour with focus on improved conditioning for Rugby World Cup
* Black Ferns Player Ratings: Kennedy Simon, Portia Woodman’s bright spots in failure
* Black Ferns coach frustrated as the discipline fails them again in the recent loss to France
* Black Ferns end the trip with defeat to France to lose four consecutive Tests for the first time
* Black Ferns run out of time to improve for the Rugby World Cup after record defeats

The Black Ferns returned to test rugby after a Covid-imposed absence of 27 months and found the hard way out of the huge progress England and France have made.

Maybe, with less than 11 months to the World Cup, this is the wake-up call they wanted against two of the world’s best teams.

Fourteen of their 16 players without restriction made their test debut and will benefit from a taste of the highest level.

However, it was more of a scary reminder of the new top standard for women’s rugby that many of New Zealand’s elite 15s players could not live up to.

The 2017 World Cup success in Belfast, when the Black Ferns beat England 41-32 in an exciting final, is a long time ago.

Only time will tell whether the Black Ferns can turn the ship around for their first World Cup at home.

But time is running out and their next test is not planned until at least April or May against weaker teams than England and France – Australia, Canada and the US – ahead of the World Cup kick-off in Eden Park on October 8. .

Black Ferns need more tests against quality opposition, but they were revealed against England and France this month.

So what went wrong?

When the lineout fell apart in the opening test, England struck and put the kind of defensive pressure that explained how to beat Black Ferns.

The English and French were almost perfect with their lineout and kicked superbly to gain a territorial advantage to reach the Kiwis in their own 22 with a dominant set piece.

Simple but effective. Black Ferns could not get out and did not help himself with a bad kicking game.

The Black Ferns' lineout was awful on tour.

Eric Alonso / Getty Images

The Black Ferns’ lineout was awful on tour.

Most of the 25 attempts they made were through rolling mauls and holes punched through their defenses due to an inferior crowd against more experienced, stronger English and French attackers.

They struggled at the breakdown, physically and with the referees, who Black Ferns could not get on the field with in the midst of a high number of penalties, which coach Glenn Moore regretted after their respective second tests in England and France.

Black Ferns faced two excellent backlines with high speed and clinical finish, which flourished down both flanks and led with flawless control of their brilliant first five eighths – England’s Zoe Harrison and France’s Caroline Drouin.

The Black Ferns fought to hold back English winger Abby Dow.

David Rogers / Getty Images

The Black Ferns fought to hold back English winger Abby Dow.

Their defense was caught wide out by fast wingers – such as England’s Abby Dow and France’s Cyrielle Banet – and the former left Kiwi superstar Portia Woodman to death with a huge fight as she sprinted ready for a memorable outburst attempt.

Neither Ruahei Demant nor Kelly Brazier could claim the same check at No. 10, and their experienced champion halfback, Kendra Cocksedge, struggled to influence their game, as she has done so often in her 57 Tests.

The line-up was awful again in the final Test against France as experienced hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate kept throwing the ball away and failure to perform such basic things never gave Black Ferns many chances.

Kennedy Simon got his first test start in the tour final in Castres.

Eric Alonso / Getty Images

Kennedy Simon got his first test start in the tour final in Castres.

They chopped and changed combinations to give players a chance and were not as cohesive as their European opponents.

Moore’s searching message in the wake of their tour final in Castres was to improve their physical fitness over the summer following a disruptive season due to Covid-19’s influence.

It should start soon, because summer is here.

What are the positives?

Before the trip, the Black Ferns did not know if they were as good or better than England and France.

They do now.

Coaches and players have been warned of their own shortcomings against two teams that played regularly during the pandemic while the Black Ferns did not.

BLACK FERNER

Two of the newest Black Ferns who have impressed on the northern tour, Maia Roos and Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, talk about their welcome to test rugby.

This would always be a challenging ride with 16 players without limitation, many of whom took a huge step up to test rugby from a predominantly amateur Farah Palmer Cup, while most Black Ferns are still semi-professionals.

England and France, meanwhile, are setting higher standards based on more professional, evolving women’s programs.

New Zealand Rugby will have to catch up.

Maia Roos was impressive on her first tour.

Eric Alonso / Getty Images

Maia Roos was impressive on her first tour.

Still, there were some bright moments that Black Ferns hope can trigger an answer.

Of tour rookies, lock Maia Roos, loose forward Liana Mikaele Tu’u, halfback Ariana Bayler and hooker Georgia Ponsonby showed promise.

Eight-test loose forward Kennedy Simon brought some much-needed aggression into the tour final, which was her first test start.

Black Ferns captain Les Elder will lead them into next year's World Cup.

Eric Alonso / Getty Images

Black Ferns captain Les Elder will lead them into next year’s World Cup.

Sevens stars Woodman and Stacey Fluhler looked sharp and threatening with the few opportunities they had to attack, as did the powerful winger Ayesha Leti-l’iga.

Skipper Les Elder finished with a captaincy performance on open side flanks in the final test and her leadership will be crucial until the World Cup.

Still, improving the entire team in time can be prohibitive.

Black Ferns on tour

November 1st: Lost 43-12 to England at Exeter

November 8: Lost 56-15 to England at Northampton

November 14: Lost 38-13 to France in Pau

November 21: Lost 29-7 to France in Castres

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