Rugby World Cup: Veteran halfback Kendra Cocksedge admits previous concern over state of Black Ferns

Veteran halfback Kendra Cocksedge still can't quite believe the turnaround she's witnessed at the Black Ferns on the eve of the Rugby World Cup.

Less than a year ago, New Zealand was coming off three straight heavy defeats at the hands of England and France on their Northern Tour.

Instead of looking forward to hosting a World Cup, NZ Rugby was forced to look in the mirror and make changes if they had any hope of lifting the trophy on home soil.

That saw Wayne Smith take over as coach, and former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry offering his expertise in a supporting role.

Cocksedge admits to being concerned about where her team was headed following the disastrous Northern Tour, but those fears are well and truly a thing of the past.

"It's come a long way," she said. "I'll be honest, I sat up at NZR in January really worried about this team, and about the Black Ferns.

"What I love now is, holy heck, I was sitting in the room last night in our girls' meeting, and going 'man, we've come a long way'.

"We're ready, there's nothing else we can say except this team has come leaps and bounds.

"I've been asked multiple times if we're going to bridge the gap between us and England and France, and I 100 percent believe that we're going to do that.

"We've got the support of the home crowd, and we're just so pumped up. We want to put on a good performance out there this weekend, and obviously every weekend."

Cocksedge has lauded the impact of the coaching staff, which includes Whitney Hansen, Wes Clarke as assistants, and All Blacks legends Richie McCaw and Dan Carter also helping out.

"I thought we'd be ready, but I didn't know how good we'd be to be honest," she said.

"But that's what has been really special, having Smithy, Bunce, Whitney and Wes come on board and it's amazing just how much things have changed in such a short period of time.

"That's credit to the girls too. We flushed that really quickly and we knew we had a really short turnaround until the World Cup. I'm just sitting here, fully confident in this team."

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.