Rugby World Cup: Coach Wayne Smith urges Black Ferns to embrace pressure of defending crown at home

After admitting the enormity of the occasion overawed them in their World Cup opener, the Black Ferns are focussing on the mental side of the game, as they seek immediate improvement against Wales.

While that's a new experience for many of the NZ women, coach Wayne Smith wants them to get used to it.

Smith continues to get the best out of his players, but getting them used to the game's biggest stage remains a struggle.

"The big occassion is what we're after," he said. "We want to be back at Eden Park, so we've got to handle that."

The Black Ferns have time to get accustomed to the enormity of their home World Cup. Waitakere's Trusts Stadium is hardly the Eden Park cauldron, but Smith knows, if they're to defend their crown, they must quickly learn how to handle the pressure. 

"Some of that's experience, so our leaders, our experienced ladies are dealing with that, as well as the coaches," said Smith.

Even World Cup debutants are unsure just how they'll handle the emotion and enormity of the occasion.

Tanya Kalounivale in action for the Black Ferns
Tanya Kalounivale in action for the Black Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

"We'll see on Sunday," chuckled rookie prop Tanya Kalounivale. "I'll give you that answer on Sunday."

Sevens veteran Ruby Tui is no stranger to the biggest stages in rugby, but despite eventually cruising to a comfortable win in their World Cup opener against Australia, she urges immediate improvement. 

"I don't know about setttled," Tui said. "There's still lots for us to improve on and i don't think we've had a complete performance." 

Confirms Smith: "There's no lack of desire in this team, but sometimes it's about how to manage that, so it's a learning process."

The wily coach hopes those lessons are learned a lot quicker on Sunday.

Check out the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us at 3:15pm Sunday for live updates of the Black Ferns v Wales pool encounter