Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns veteran Charmaine McMenamin bounces back from career-threatening surgery

A year ago, Charmaine McMenamin went under the knife for major back surgery that she thought may end her rugby career altogether.

Now, after one of the most difficult periods of her Black Ferns tenure, the livewire No.8 is preparing to start in her second World Cup final, this time at a soldout Eden Park.

The fact McMenamin, 32, is even up and running is something of a medical miracle.

"It's that resilience," she told Newshub. "You kind of don't know it until you reach the endpoint.

"You're going through hell at the time, but to now look back and it's like, 'Wow, I actually did that'."

During a club game, McMenamin lost all feeling in her legs with that turned out to be a serious spinal injury, requiring her vertebrae to be fused and six metal plates inserted in her spine.

She was bedridden for two months, but the mental toll was even more exhausting.

"It took a lot at the time," said McMenamin. "I had to pull away from rugby, because it was too much, being still involved, but not being able to be a part of it."

She only truly felt back to normal again in August, so to be on the eve of her second World Cup final mere months later is still surreal.

"It's only really in this interview, I'm reflecting back on it and it's going to be a huge moment for me."

Her teammates are grateful to share that moment with her.

Charmaine McMenamin leads the Black Ferns haka during the World Cup
Charmaine McMenamin leads the Black Ferns haka during the World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Her resilience, her strength, her character... it's absolutely what she is and who she is, and that's exactly what a Black Fern is," insisted star winger Portia Woodman.

Five years after winning her first, McMenamin is hungry for a second World Cup title.

"I'd be speechless," she said. "I don't even have the words for it, but I'll do my best to do it."

McMenamin will have her team and her country right behind her.

Catch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us from 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Black Ferns v England final