- By Kevin McCarthy
I hope New Zealand is ready to give the Black Ferns a licence to lose this weekend.
That’s not to say anyone will want them to lose, or that they are likely to lose. And any mention of losing will rightly be anathema to the team
Most definitely it is not meant as saying well, they’re the women’s side, and we don’t need to hold them to the same standard as the men’s team.
What I mean is that too often, actually all the time, there’s this stifling expectation for the All Blacks that they must and will win. It’s got its upside but it’s also a burden to be borne.
Watching the Black Ferns, who have had to come through with a considerable amount of past baggage to carry – and lose – there’s a refreshing attitude of not-dying-wondering.
That’s the on field stuff. Then there’s the way they’ve reignited and broadened rugby’s fanbase. Considering how moribund that sometimes seems, it’s a remarkable turnaround and one that rugby bosses should be poring over.
That’s already a hell of a legacy.
Now they’ll be trying on Saturday to finish the job, and what a job it is. England haven’t won 30-plus straight games by accident. They will be plotting to turn the Black Ferns energiser bunny attack into a liability, not a plus. Expect a game of territory and pressure to silence the Eden Park multitudes.
Will the Black Ferns throw off those shackles. You wouldn’t bet against them. Who wasn’t screaming at the TV last Saturday for Kendra Cocksedge to perhaps, just occasionally to slow down the pace. But that’s who they are.
Drop it like our prop 🔥#RWC2021 | #LikeABlackFern pic.twitter.com/JXhSZovRuA
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) November 10, 2022
That’s why we know they’ll throw everything into the match. But if that isn’t enough, then so be it. There won’t be any lack of courage.
That’s courage borne partly of not having to carry that constant load of having to win. Paradoxically, it may be that by flirting with losing by playing a spectacular game, that’s how the Black Ferns will pull this one off.
Finally, who doesn’t have a sneaking suspicion that some how this is fated to be a happy ending regardless. Watching that final nerve wracking penalty go wide last weekend, you had to think that the scriptwriter was saying, it doesn’t end this way.
There’s a temptation with so many international matches in play between north and south in November to try to benchmark the results and project forward to the World Cup.
It’s way too early folks for that, especially in regard to how the All Blacks are tracking.
Impressive though they were against Wales, they also leaked points – and well, its Wales.
Scotland will be a similar prospect and then the old enemy, England, who are in something of a fug.
For other teams, is anyone seeing France’s escape against the Wallabies anything other than one of those days? Argentina are dangerous on a good day. Just ask the All Blacks.
Ireland probably impressed the most, dealing effectively with the Boks. That fits with them being one of the top two sides in the world.
Everything else is a bit like the dash to the line in the Melbourne Cup – where the winner doesn’t present sometimes till very late.