Black Ferns v France: New Zealand provided another brutal reality check as unwelcome record looms

The Black Ferns are now on the cusp of claiming another unwelcome record, after their 38-13 loss to France in Pau.

After falling to their two heaviest test defeats to England over the past fortnight, another loss to the French in their final tour game would see them become the first NZ women's team to ever lose four consecutive games.

They're troubling signs for the Kiwis, who now have less than a year to right the ship for their World Cup defence on home soil.

After more than two-and-a-half year away from the test arena, coach Glenn Moore admits the tour has been a brutal reintroduction to the elite level, where their opponents' relative abundance of experience has been painfully apparent.

While New Zealand have been stranded in COVID-19 isolation, France and their fellow European powerhouses have had regular and highly valuable matchplay.

"They've got a good basis that they're playing from," says Moore. "They have had good test continuity with the Six Nations and have a very good club competition.

"Like England, they've had a lot of match time and are battle-hardened. We're not quite there yet."

Already one of the planet's best, France's competition against world No. 1 England has seen them take another leap in class, as they claimed a third straight win over the Black Ferns, backing up victories in 2018 and 2019.

Both France and England will likely head to New Zealand as firm favourites, with the Black Ferns' 2017 triumph now a distant memory.

The French were composed and clinical in their latest win and although the Kiwis made an improved start, the hosts' expert control of territory had them chasing the contest throughout.

"It is disappointing, because we felt like we were in that battle," adds Moore. "We needed to get some territory and possession, and hold on to it.

"I thought we scrambled well and our scrum was good in the first half. We were getting a platform from that, but struggled with our lineout, albeit after we stole some French throws as well."

France's defence was able to limit opportunities for key Black Ferns weapons Portia Woodman and Stacey Fluhler, which they consolidated with their accuracy in the kicking department.

With a final chance to make amends next weekend in their rematch at Castres, Moore insists his squad are ready and desperate to finish their tour on a high note.

"We'll still be hungry for the next test and get up to consolidate through the week."