Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns happy to play underdogs in final showdown against England, Wayne Smith concedes

As the dust settles on the Black Ferns' thrilling Rugby World Cup semi-final victory over France, director of rugby Wayne Smith can start to plan for how his side can stop an all-conquering England side in next weekend's decider.

Following the dramatic 25-24 victory at Eden Park, the Black Ferns have progressed to the tournament showpiece, and will face England at the same venue in seven days' time.

The final is a repeat of 2017, where the Black Ferns took a 41-32 victory in Belfast to lift the World Cup for the sixth time.

The Black Ferns celebrate Stacey Fluhler's try against France.
The Black Ferns celebrate Stacey Fluhler's try against France. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Standing in their way this time though is an England side that's almost forgotten how to lose - with their own semi-final win, defeating Canada, being their 30th consecutive test victory.

Despite denying the underdog tag for Saturday's semi-final against France, Smith concedes the tale of the tape reads differently heading into the final.

But after taking charge of the Black Ferns in the wake of the disastrous 2021 northern tour, Smith says the Black Ferns won't die wondering next week.

"We knew that France and England had been miles ahead of us," Smith said. "We'd made up a bit of ground.

"Whether we can make up some more ground over six days? I'm sure we can. 

"I don't know what it'll look like. I'm just proud to be in there.

"I know one thing about our girls, they've got heart, and they'll give it a crack."

The Black Ferns celebrate Ruby Tui's try against France.
The Black Ferns celebrate Ruby Tui's try against France. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Next Saturday will see Smith coach New Zealand in a home World Cup final for the second time in his career.

As part of Sir Graham Henry's coaching staff in 2011, Smith helped oversee the 8-7 win over France - coincidentally the same winning margin as the Black Ferns' semi-final victory.

And with the lessons of that campaign on board, Smith is prepared to do things differently the second time around.

"I never thought I'd be here, so that makes it bigger. I never thought I'd sit through that again, so that makes it bigger.

"I'll probably be a bit freer this week. To think that we're in a final gives you an opportunity to really let loose.

"We've got nothing to lose. We're underdogs - I've never been in that position before, other than with the Crusaders, but with the All Blacks never.

"It's a new feeling for me. I think we'll have a good week."

Tactically, though, Smith also concedes the Black Ferns have areas they need to improve on.

Despite being the superior team for most of the semi-final, the Black Ferns still had to turn around a halftime scoreline to emerge victorious.

And as Smith holds his own hands up, the coaching guru knows what it takes to get up for a final.

"We struggled with our kicking game," Smith said. "There was a fair amount of space in behind.

"[It's] my fault, we've created such an attacking attitude [that] we don't want to kick. 

"We've got a bit of work to do on that next week. We've got to be smarter against England in the final."

Catch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join Newshub from on Saturday for live updates of the final