Black Ferns have a lot of ground to make up

By Gary Caffell


Rugby

Eketahuna midfielder Shakira Baker is under no illusions as to the challenge confronting the Black Ferns if they want to regain their status as the most-feared side in women's rugby.

Baker played in all three tests of the tour of England and has nothing but praise for an English side which came up trumps on each occasion, 16-13, 14-8 and 32-23.

"They were tough, big and fast," Baker said. "They had a lot of skill too, they played smart."

It was Baker's second trip to the UK with the Black Ferns and it left her with the clear impression the Kiwis have some ground to make up if they are to continue their World Cup dominance.

She said England had the advantage of playing regularly on the international scene whereas the Black Ferns had far fewer opportunities and that was clearly giving England the edge.

"Their whole set-up is very professional." .

In contrast the Black Ferns arrived in England with only a few training sessions behind them and found it difficult to get any rhythm into their game, especially from an attacking viewpoint.

"We made a lot of unnecessary mistakes in the first couple of games and you can't afford to do that against a team like them," she said. "By the time the third test came along, we were starting to get things together and we were pretty hopeful of winning that one. It was disappointing to go under again."

Match reports suggest Baker was one of the better performers for the Black Ferns, seldom failing to get over the advantage line whenever she got the ball, but the three defeats clearly overshadow any personal satisfaction.

"The results weren't good enough, we have to get better," she said. "There's some unfinished business now."

This coming weekend will see Baker contesting a regional sevens tournament in Palmerston North and she is intent on helping her Manawatu side qualify for the national sevens in January. It will be soon after that she will head to Auckland where she will be playing her club and provincial rugby during the 2013 season.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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