Rugby World Cup: Haka has Black Ferns hyped for confirmed October 2022 tournament start

Finally facing their own haka has the Black Ferns fizzing to take the field again - soon - as they begin counting the days until next year's 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

With confirmation of an October 8, 2022, start date, the reign champions now know there are 514.

As part of that announcement, the NZ women experienced the full force of their pre-game challenge to Australia Wallaroos two years ago.

"Goosebumps," admits star halfback Kendra Cocksedge, who has consciously stepped back from the game to recharge the batteries.  

"It was pretty awesome. It's amazing to sit on the other side and know what you're facing.

"I got a little bit emotional. Charmain McManemin was next to me and she was the same.

"We were ready to play after that - we were like 'who are we playing, let's go, let's go'."

The Ferns have not faced international opponents since that 37-8 victory at Auckland's Eden Park in August 2019, keeping their competitive juices flowing with fixtures against NZ Barbarians in the meantime. 

If COVID-19 has presented challenges to the All Blacks programme over the past 18 months, it has threatened to derail the women, as they attempt to defend their world crown on home soil at a tournament stalled 12 months by the pandemic.  

That delay has played havoc with the Ferns' collective and individual preparation, especially those nearing the twilight of their careers.

"It's cool to have some certainty," Cocksedge tells Newshub. "There's been a lot of uncertainty with what's been going on over the last couple of years, so to have those dates locked in gives us something to work towards and plan for.

"With management working out how camps look over the next 18 months, and when we need to come together and hopefully getting some international tests, it's a lot easier when you've got a date to be able to plan and prep for."

News of mandatory five-day breaks between World Cup games is also welcome to Cocksedge, 32, who concedes she doesn't bounce back as quickly as she used to. 

"For me - older body - I'll take as much rest as I can," she says. "It's hugely important.

"In the past, we've had about four days turnaround, so you kind of play, recovery, train, then captain's run and you're back into it. To have five days will be beneficial in terms of player welfare - the more time you have between games, the better."

Cocksedge will skip the Christchurch club rugby competition with University to refresh her outlook towards the game, as she possibly extends her career to attend the World Cup.

"As soon as the World Cup got postponed... it's pretty tough when you're working really hard for 15 years at the top and that mental fatigue kicks in. The best thing for me to do was to step away, work out what I was going to do and unfortunately, club got put to the back.

"I'm enjoying my time off, with lots of time between family and friends, and I'm enjoying it."

That doesn't mean she's a contented spectator.

"I went down for my first game on the weekend and we only won by two points," she chuckles. "I was not very good on the sideline.

"I didn't take my boots for that reason - I made sure they were kept at home."

While she's unwilling to make any formal announcements, Cocksedge hints retirement may not be far from her mind.

"That decision's yet to be made. Obviously, with everything going on in the last 12 months and with COVID, there's no decision made yet, but I have been around a long time.

"What better way to finish than winning a World Cup at home? No decision yet, but we'll see how we go."