Black Ferns v England: 28-month wait for 100th test provides plenty of motivation for underdone New Zealand side

Two-and-a-half years of anticipation comes to an end for the Black Ferns on Monday morning, when they play their 100th test match.

In a repeat of the enthralling 2017 Rugby World Cup final, New Zealand plays England at Devon's Sandy Park, their first test match since the 2019 Super Series in San Diego.

The Ferns beat England 28-13 in a virtual final to win that tournament in their 99th test match.

Fast forward through 28 months and a global pandemic, when New Zealand finally notch 100 tests, and veteran halfback Kendra Cocksedge hopes to honour those that paved the way for women's rugby.

"It's been two-and-a half years since we played a test match and the Black Ferns will be playing our 100th test this weekend, so there is a lot for us to get up for," Cocksedge says.

"We love the challenge of the battle against England, and we know how tough it will be and that has the girls really fizzing.

"We are sick of playing each other in training, so we are looking forward to doing the job against England.

"It's pretty cool to credit the mana wahine who have gone before us - it's quite a legacy. It's important that we go out there and do the job against England, not only for ourselves and our family, but also those women who wore the jersey."

The Black Ferns play four tests across the next month, with two in France to follow the series against England. With a Rugby World Cup defence just nine months away, the tour provides a chance for the coaching staff to gauge the squad against two of the best teams in the world.

Thirteen new caps are part of the playing group and assistant coach John Haggart says mixing youth with their experienced core is key in developing a squad good enough to defend the title they won four years ago.

"We need to build our depth across our team and our mission is to win every test we play," says Haggart. "But we also must ensure that we grow our young people to be better players and get better outcomes. 

"It's a balance and having a mix of senior players with our younger group is massive, and if we can continue to get that nailed, then we will be so much better as a team rolling into 2022 and the World Cup."

John Haggart - Black Ferns assistant coach
John Haggart - Black Ferns assistant coach Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Haggart is under no illusion that four tests against two battle-hardened teams will be a tough task.

While Black Ferns players have been limited to two COVID-interrupted Farah Palmer Cup campaigns, England and France have had several tests each, including two Six Nations tournaments.

Haggart says the team is embracing the challenge.

"England are a quality side and, even under COVID conditions, have been playing Six Nations competitions, and then with France after that, we know we have a very tough tour in front of us.

"It's going to be very tough this weekend, we have a lot of debutants within the group, but we believe we will put a good team out there and take the England Roses on in a good battle."

Join Newshub for live updates of the Black Ferns v England from 3:30am Monday