Whether Krysten Cottrell is playing for her Taradale club team at the Hawke's Bay Sevens in Waipukurau or pulling on the Black Ferns rugby jersey the excitement level is the same ... high.
Since she started playing the game at Taradale High School there has always been excitement and a huge smile when Cottrell is on the field. It doesn't matter whether she is weaving through the opposing side's defence or attempting to tackle a player almost twice her size nothing changes.
"I'm pretty excited ... it's awesome to be named in the 10 jersey. I'm soaking it all up and it is a different feeling from being a sub," Cottrell said from the Black Ferns' Toulon base yesterday.
After three games as a substitute for the world champions, Cottrell, 26, will be the starting first five-eighth when they take on Six Nations champions France at Stade Felix, Mayol this morning (9am NZT). The starting pivot in the last three tests, two wins against Australia in August and the win against the United States in Chicago last week, Aucklander Ruahei Demant, has been shifted to second five-eighth.
"It's good to have another ball player outside me and someone who knows how I play," Cottrell said.
Both players love running the ball but at the same time they know when and how to kick in general play. There will be times when they will have to kick the Black Ferns out of trouble against a team which kicks regularly.
"France kick quite a lot so it's important we can kick into space too," Cottrell said.
The Hawke's Bay union's women's development officer who had five seasons playing for Manawatu and helped them win four national sevens titles before linking back up with the Hawke's Bay Tui side last season, Cottrell, agreed the French outfit is unorthodox and has the potential to be just as unpredictable as French men's teams have been against the All Blacks over the years.
"We just have to be ready for whatever tricks they give us. We have to put more pressure on and hold on to the ball as much as possible. They have not had a lot of pressure put on them during the Six Nations," Cottrell added.
Cottrell's former sprint coach Mick Cull, one of the Bay's most successful athletics coaches before his recent retirement, remembers the summers he spent with Cottrell during her secondary school days.
"Duffy [Cottrell's nickname] was good friends with Laura Nagel, who I coached back then. In those days her skills levels were high but her fitness levels were really low. She didn't want it enough.
"Since then I have seen her grow as a person. Her enthusiasm and professionalism levels have grown. She wants it so much and is such a modest girl. This selection is so well deserved," Cull added.
Fresh from a brilliant Women's Six Nations in which they clinched the title ahead of England, Les Bleues will look to kick on against the Black Ferns.
Today's match will be the first of two tests between the two sides - the second is in Grenoble next Saturday - and as expected France coach Annick Hayraud has the majority of his squad used in the Six Nations campaign available again. Blindside flanker Gaelle Hermet will captain the hosts. It will be the first time the two teams have met since the 2010 World Cup when the Black Ferns won 45-7.
"We must not change our game because we are facing the world champions. We have belief in the project we are trying to put together and we have to keep working in that direction.
"We have looked at their game and seen their strengths and their weaknesses. But the most important thing is the desire to continue with our game plan based on speed and variety," Hayraud said.
"Make no mistake the French will be a real threat. Last year they had the potential to be in the final of the World Cup," Black Ferns head coach Glenn Moore said.
"We are expecting them to be a formidable opponent. They have size, athleticism and really good game knowledge. We will give them every respect and will do our utmost to make everyone at home proud," Moore added.
The battle between the Black Ferns' two-time world champion halfback Kendra Cocksedge, a former World Rugby Player of the Year award winner, and her promising French counterpart Pauline Bourdon is tipped to be a highlight of the match. Bourdon's combination with first five-eighth Caroline Drouin flourished during the Six Nations and will be a key to the hosts aim to play at pace.
France and New Zealand met in the final of the 2018 World Cup Sevens, and four members of the French team are set to feature today. Centre Stacey Waaka is the only New Zealand player from that final who starts.
Teams for the test which kicks off at 9am (NZT):
France: 15. Montserrat Amedee (Montpellier RC), 14. Cyrielle Banet (Montpellier RC), 13. Nassira Konde (AC Bobigny 93), 12. Carla Neisen (Blagnac Rugby Féminin), 11. Caroline Boujard (Montpellier RC), 10. Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais), 9. Pauline Bourdon (AS Bayonnaise), 1. Anaelle Deshaye (AS Rouen Universite Club), 2. Caroline Thomas (ASM Romagnat Rugby Feminin), 3. Julie Duval (L'Ovalie Caennaise), 4. Lenaïg Corson (Stade Francais Paris), 5. Safi N'Diaye (Montpellier RC), 6. Gaelle Hermet (Stade Toulousain Rugby, captain), 7. Julie Annery (AC Bobigny 93), 8. Romane Menager (Montpellier RC)
Replacements: 16. Laure Touye (Blagnac Rugby Feminin), 17. Lise Arricastre (Lons Rugby Feminin Bearn Pyrenees), 18. Chloe Pelle (Lille Metropole RC Villeneuvois), 19. Audrey Forlani (Blagnac Rugby Feminin), 20. Celine Ferer (AS Bayonnaise), 21. Yanna Rivoalen (Lille Metropole RC Villeneuvois), 22. Maelle Filopon (Stade Toulousain Rugby), 23. Ian Jason (Stade Toulousain Rugby)
New Zealand: 15. Selica Winiata, 14. Renee Wickliffe, 13. Stacey Waaka, 12. Ruahei Demant, 11. Ayesha Leti-I'iga, 10. Krysten Cottrell, 9. Kendra Cocksedge, 1. Philippa Love, 2. Fiao'o Faamausili (captain), 3. Aldora Itunu, 4. Eloise Blackwell, 5. Charmaine Smith, 6. Charmaine McMenamin, 7. Les Elder, 8. Aroha Savage
Replacements: 16. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, 17. Leilani Perese, 18. Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, 19. Jackie Pateau-Fereti, 20. Linda Itunu, 21. Marcelle Parkes, 22. Kristina Sue, 23. Monica Tagoai