It’s almost 12 months since the Black Ferns knocked France out of the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
One point and a missed penalty kick in the final minute by the French was all that stood between a semifinal defeat and New Zealand going on to win the whole thing. Of course, they did the latter.
Fast forward a year and the rugby rivals meet again – and again on Kiwi soil.
“They’re definitely here to let us know just how close that was,” Black Ferns wing Ruby Tui said, ahead of this Saturday’s match in Wellington.
“I’ve been through many losses myself, like close losses and I know what that feels and tastes like and it takes years actually to get that taste out of your mouth.
“I know France and they got a new captain, they got a new identity... everybody’s come back and has not forgotten that World Cup.”
In what Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting is calling a “mini World Cup” the inaugural WXV 1 competition kicking off this weekend offers nations an opportunity to compete against similar-strengthed teams – with the tournament playing out in a three-tier system.
Naturally, the World Cup-winning New Zealand team will play in tier one, taking on Six Nations sides France, Wales and England - who they beat in last year’s final.
Although each will be a tough ask, there’s something about facing France again after the way they beat them last November at Eden Park.
Kiwi co-captain Ruahei Demant says she doesn’t reflect back on that stunning win often, however, says moments like that are a gift.
“It allows us to learn and prepare for any other possible scenarios, any kind of what ifs, things in future games,” Demant said.
“When I do think back to that game, I don’t really think back to the result, I think back to the things that we learned in those moments on that day, that better prepared us to go on and play in the final.”
After four convincing victories this year against Canada, the United States, and Australia twice, New Zealand are grateful for this opportunity to play Six Nations competition.
“That’s the beauty of this tournament,” Demant said.
“That’s the beauty of having a tournament like this – we’re guaranteed quality game time against quality opposition.
“The best teams in the world every single year,” she said.
First five-eighths Demant expects the new competition to not only push the standard of women’s rugby internationally but also allow New Zealand to build depth and have more players with more experience in the years to come.
Bunting says the breakdown and contact areas are in France’s DNA, and it’s a space they’ve done homework on in the lead-up to the test.
“They’re really quick in that space [and] we need to be better in that space.
“We know the threats that they bring... they’re pretty illusive and they like to play running rugby too,” Bunting said.
“We’ve focused on us and [is] what we’re working on for the majority of our time.
“We want to get our game right and see how it goes.”
Black Ferns: Renee Holmes, Ruby Tui, Amy du Plessis, Sylvia Brunt, Katelyn Vahaakolo, Ruahei Demant, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Kennedy Simon, Alana Bremner, Charmaine Smith, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Amy Rule, Georgia Ponsonby, Krystal Murray.
Reserves: Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko, Tanya Kalounivale, Chelsea Bremner, Lucy Jenkins, Ariana Bayler, Patricia Maliepo, Martha Mataele.
Bonnie Jansen is a Multimedia Journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective before joining the Te Rito cadetship scheme.