Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns veteran Hazel Tubic relishing unlikely opportunity for another gold medal

Black Ferns veteran Hazel Tubic thought her 2017 Rugby World Cup experience would be one-off, but instead, she finds herself lacing up the boots for another shot at Eden Park on Saturday.

The first-five was among the NZ women that lifted the trophy at Belfast five years ago, thinking her days on the game's biggest stage were over, until New Zealand was named host for the 2021 tournament.

With COVID-19 delaying the tournament another year, Tubic, 31, spent much of the pandemic in Japan, playing for Nagato Blue Angels on the sevens circuit.

Despite the Black Ferns' dominance of World Cups, winning five of the last six editions, New Zealand will stage the event for the first time.

Tubic needed little convincing to return home to earn selection for the side and believes not sticking her hand up would have done a disservice to previous players.

"After the last World Cup, I kind of thought that I was done with New Zealand rugby and the black jersey," she said.

"I definitely didn't really have this on my radar to be here, but now that I am in it, it hasn't quite sunk in yet until this weekend, I suppose, it will seem real.

"Just really grateful to be here, and happy that I decided to come back and give it a crack. A few of the coaches kept contacting me, kind of dragged me back to try and give it go.

"With COVID happening, there wasn't really anything happening in Japan. We couldn't really play, so it was the thought of just having that World Cup in your own backyard.

"The previous players would've given anything to have this opportunity, so I thought it would've been wrong of me not to give it a crack."

Hazel Tubic in action for the Black Ferns
Hazel Tubic in action for the Black Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

Tubic is one of the oldest members of the Black Ferns squad and also one of the few with experience at previous World Cups.

She reveals there has been little discussion about previous campaigns, but expects that will change once the knockout end of the competition begins.

"We haven't really discussed too much about previous World Cups," she said. "There's quite a lot of new girls that haven't experienced the World Cup, but they've asked us a few questions.

"Obviously, it's a big event, but we don't want to get too overloaded with the fact that it's a World Cup here in our own country.

"We're basically treating it the same as going into any other game, but obviously with that little bit of added excitement, especially with this weekend's crowd looking to be quite big.

"I'm sure as we get further into the competition, those kind of crunch-time moments, we'll probably learn a few things off the ones that have been before."

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