Rugby: Career-ending injury doesn't extinguish Charmaine Smith's World Cup dream

Former Black Fern Charmaine Smith still has her sights set on next year's Women's Rugby World Cup, despite being forced to retire at age 29.

A serious neck injury ended the 27-test veteran's career, effectively ending any chance of her defending their title at home. 

But Smith might still get to live out that dream, as she navigates life after rugby.

Seven months after retiring, she's still adjusting to her new normal and with memories of their World Cup victory in Ireland still firmly in her mind, it hasn't been easy.

"That was a really hard time for me," she tells Newshub. "Rugby left a huge hole in my life."

A back scan in March revealed a bulging disc in her neck and ultimately ended her playing career.

"When i found out, I was crying in my car," she says. "But it felt like a no-brainer, because I got to walk away with my health."

While she's walking away from her playing days, she's not walking away from rugby altogether.

After throwing herself into work and the gym, she's ready to return to the game she loves, offering her services to NZ Rugby in whatever capacity.

"I'm so excited for the World Cup next year - I want to be involved."

And her assessment of the current crop of Farah Palmer Cup player?

"I'm really enjoying the rugby at the moment," says Smith. "I'm so impressed with the level, the game has taken so many steps forward."

And no doubt it will continue to do so with her knowledge and experience. 

"There will always be a part of me who will wish I was out on the field, but I think any hardships anyone goes through, you come out the other side stronger. 

Smith's experiences can only add to the strength of women's rugby in New Zealand.