Rugby World Cup: Ex-All Black Mils Muliaina calls for Wayne Smith to be honoured after reviving Black Ferns' fortunes

Regardless of the result in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final, the contribution of Black Ferns director of rugby Wayne Smith needs to be recognised with higher honours, says former All Black Mils Muliaina.

Smith, 65, was parachuted into the Black Ferns' head coaching role earlier this year, after a damning culture review into the team after their 2021 northern tour.

Glenn Moore's resignation less than six months out from the World Cup saw the former All Blacks coach take over at short notice, but the Black Ferns have won 11 from 11 tests under his tutelage.

The Black Ferns' haka.
The Black Ferns' haka. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Up next though is the biggest test of all, facing England at Eden Park on Saturday in the Rugby World Cup final.

England have won 30 consecutive tests, a record in international rugby, seeing the Black Ferns instilled as heavy underdogs.

But for former All Blacks fullback Muliaina, the Black Ferns even reaching the final by defeating France - who had won their last four consecutive matches against New Zealand - puts Smith in elite company.

"You've got to take your hat off to Wayne Smith and what he's done," Muliaina told Sky Sport's Breakdown.

"I hope he's recognised over the New Year honours list, in terms of what he's done.

"Not only for the women's game, but also the All Blacks and also the Crusaders.

The Black Ferns celebrate.
The Black Ferns celebrate. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

"He's one of the best guys… he gets the best out of players. That's reflected in the way the girls are playing and the belief they have in him. He's just magic. 

"I know they've still got one game left… [but] what they've done is brought out real belief in what they've done."

Honours for Smith wouldn't be unprecedented either. 

Even after becoming the only All Blacks coach to resign, Smith's work as an assistant sees him among New Zealand's best.

Sir Graham Henry was given a knighthood to acknowledge his service to the game, including winning the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Successor Sir Steve Hansen had the same honour after he stepped down from the role after 2019.

Smith was involved as an assistant to Sir Graham and Sir Steve for the 2011 and 2015 World Cup wins respectively, and was widely considered as the tactical genius behind the two victorious campaigns. 

Victory on Saturday, though, would arguably see Smith stand on top of the pile as a winner of both the men's and women's Rugby World Cups.

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 Black Ferns v England final