Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Rugby: No croissants please, as halfback eyes four titles on the trot

Emma Jenson.
Emma Jenson.

Auckland halfback Emma Jensen chases her fourth World Cup rugby triumph when the Black Ferns defend their title in France next month.

And the 36-year-old - who heads the PE department at Epsom Girls Grammar School - intends to continue playing after that. Jensen, of Hawkes Bay origins, talks to the Weekend Herald.

Your World Cup final victories have all been against England - are there any other challengers?

Others are definitely getting better. Ireland won the Six Nations and have beaten England a couple of times. France are like their men's team - they can perform on the day. Canada are up and coming. The inclusion of sevens in the Olympics has brought more countries forward.

Your World Cup highlight?

Beating England last time. They claimed their forwards would dominate us in the set piece and they finally had the speed on us in the backs. We put on a very complete performance.

Lowlight?

The first time we lost to England - I didn't think it was going to happen in my career. We lost some mystique. We had new personnel and not enough preparation time to gel - with both losses to them at Twickenham. Since then we have reclaimed that family feeling.

How have you done that?

Experienced players stood up ... we've relayed critical messages about what makes us such a good team to the new players. Past players including Rochelle Martin and Farah Palmer have made presentations. Rochelle lost everything in a burglary which she said brought home how much her medals and jerseys meant to her. Farah talked about the culture of the team, where we had started from ... we've worked hard at restoring key values of the Black Ferns.

Did you have a childhood hero?

Kelly Slater (Australian surfing legend). Surfing is my other passion. I loved how consistent he was.

You have played for an Italian club ...

The Italians are just so passionate. Something would happen on the field and they would go off verbally with their hands waving. We took an overnight train to Rome for a game and the girls got me a croissant and coffee for breakfast. I was expecting spaghetti on toast. I thought 'how can I play on that?'

Who is a character in the team?

Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali is a laugh. On one tour she took a cuddle-buddy thing that looked like a cow as her pillow on the plane. She gives out strange nicknames - she started calling me E-Duzel recently. I've got no idea what it means. I hope it doesn't stick.

Has the game got tougher?

Yes. My body is a lot sorer these days.

What would you like to see changed in rugby?

The coverage we get and for all women's sport. I can understand the issues, but the Black Ferns have won four World Cups in a row and people don't know about it. When people do watch us play, they are quite surprised by the quality. The inclusion of sevens in the Olympics has created positive media for us.

Do you get paid?

On tour and in official camps. The amount changes. I hope one day there are contracts and the game is regarded as semi-professional. My school is supportive - it sees me as being a bit of a role model for the girls. Some players do struggle though.

Retirement?

If I play in the maximum five World Cup games I'll be on 46 tests - there is an incentive to become the first to reach 50. If I'm still enjoying it, I'll keep playing.

- NZ Herald

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