Rugby World Cup: Coach Wayne Smith 'absolutely' believes Black Ferns should receive equal pay with men

Departing Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith has added his voice to the deafening chorus seeking pay equality for his players.

The team's electrifying run to a second straight World Cup title concluded in Auckland on Saturday, with their 34-31 win over England in a nail-demolishing final rounding out a campaign many hope wll signal a new dawn for the women's game - both in Aotearoa and across the globe.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the latest high profile figure to go into bat for the Black Ferns, saying they "deserve no less" than the All Blacks.

Smith is adamant the Black Ferns should receive fitting financial remuneration from NZ Rugby, using the landmark pay equity deal struck by their cricketing counterparts as their blueprint.

Announced in July, NZ Cricket's new men's and women's combined agreements will see the White Ferns and domestic women's players receive the same match fees as the men across all formats and competitions.

"I absolutely believe there should be pay parity, and of course there should be bonuses for something that was really incredible," Smith told AM on Thursday.

Wayne Smith in the image that went viral after the final.
Wayne Smith in the image that went viral after the final. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I think there were 166 points scored against us in the Northern Hemisphere tour the year before in four games. To turn around and win it, these womens were sensational

"I think the future of the game is pay parity. They're doing it in cricket and I can't see why they can't do it in rugby."

At the very least, bonuses are forthcoming. The revelation that the English players would receive $30,000 each for bringing home the Cup, while no such clause existed for the Black Ferns, created some controversy earlier in the tournament.

Sarah Hirini told AM the players had been told to expect a one-off reward shortly after their triumph at Eden Park.

Attempting to describe his journey to World Cup glory with the Black Ferns, Smith offered an analogy for the ages.

"It was sort of like taking your granddaughter and all her friends to Rainbows End," Smith told AM. "The girls were excited, there's a lot of joy, a lot of noise. 

"Then they realised they had the coach to get on the rollercoaster, and they became wahine toa and the wahine toa were magnificent.

"The rollercoaster was the way we played - the courage to attack from anywhere, see the opportunity on any situation to have a go

"It was one of the great adventures of my life."

Like many of his players and staff, Smith is still dusting off the debris of the team's celebrations at Sir Graham Henry's home on Waiheke Island, when he loaded up his truck with "booze" and took to the ferry.

Now recuperating at his home in Waihi, he's still trying to live down that iconic post-game picture that set social media ablaze - another example of the way his team had their coach wrapped around their fingers.

"I was forced into it," he said, shaking his head. "These women have forced me into a lot of stuff over the past six months.

"I don't have any social media so I hadn't seen it until it came into the mainstream media.

"Bit embarrassing, but you do stupid stuff when you're excited."

In many ways, it's a product of that unique kind of joy that Smith said exists within the Black Ferns camp.

Comparing the Black Ferns' environment to the All Blacks - who he helped lead to consecutive World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015 - Smith said there was one marked difference in the way they approached the game.

"When you're in the All Blacks you have to play well to feel good. The result and the performance is massive and drives the way you feel.

"Whereas in the women's game, you have to feel good to play well, and there's a slight difference there. 

"You've got to be excited, joyful, play with love in your hearts and then you can go out and do what these ladies did."

As to any chance he may stick around as coach beyond this World Cup, Smith unequivocally ruled it out, with his sights now set on a return to coaching in Japan.

"There are a couple of great coaches that were assistants," he said, passing the mantle to Whitney Hansen and Wes Clarke.

"I'll always be here to help out… but I've got another life I want to live."