Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns determined not to squander golden opportunity to boost women's rugby

The Black Ferns are embracing the responsibility that comes with a home World Cup, after World Rugby described the tournament as a "fuse for a golden decade" for women's rugby and bridging the gap to the men's game. 

At home, Super Rugby Aupiki will expand next year, but it's hoped the World Cup will be the catalyst for major growth and the Black Ferns aren't shying away from the role they're expected to play in the weeks ahead, as they enter into their final preparations for a game - and a tournament - like no other. 

"The atmosphere is amazing and the girls are just excited to play at the World Cup," said hooker Luka Connor.

A growing profile World Rugby believes will start a "golden decade of opportunity" for the women's game. 

The Black Ferns don't want the opportunity to be wasted, especially at home. 

"Give us more primetime footy games, give us more standalone games, give us more fixtures," said Black Ferns back Ruahei Demant.

Black Ferns celebrate a try against Japan
Black Ferns celebrate a try against Japan. Photo credit: Getty Images

It's now all too real for the side, who know their moment is here, with close to 40,000 expected at Eden Park to watch them face Australia on Saturday for their World Cup opener. 

"We haven't made a big deal of it as a coaching group, but it's all through the hallways in the hotel, so players are excited," said coach Wes Clarke.

"When we're overseas, we just have our family," noted veteran first-five Hazel Tubic. "People don't really notice you down the street, but even just this week, we've had people come up to us being likem 'Oh my gosh, you're the Black Ferns'."

"What I want to see - globally and in New Zealand - is the support structures for those players that want to play, to get good coaching and fun experiences… have great changing rooms and feel welcome wherever they go, so they have good experiences after that," said Clarke.

A new W XV competition, as well as the Pacific Four series, will see the Ferns get more games, while Super Rugby Aupiki slowly expands.

"I guess it's just holding on to momentum after this World Cup and I hope that we can do well," said veteran Charmain McMenamin. "I know we're going to try our hardest anyway."

Watch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us on Saturday for live updates of the Black Ferns v Australia World Cup opener