Source: Mike Lee KLC Fotos

Last Chance Saloon – France v New Zealand

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The Black Ferns have announced their side to face France in their fourth and last test in Europe. Can it produce the goods?

The Squad:

1. Pip Love (14)
2. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (31)
3. Aleisha-Pearl Nelson (38)
4. Eloise Blackwell (45)
5. Maia Roos (2)
6. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u (3)
7. Les Elder (captain, 21)
8. Kennedy Simon (7)
9. Kendra Cocksedge (56)
10. Kelly Brazier (41)
11. Portia Woodman (18)
12. Chelsea Alley (25)
13. Carla Hohepa (27)
14. Stacey Fluhler (19)
15. Cheyelle Robins-Reti (2)

16. Georgia Ponsonby (1)
17. Aldora Itunu (23)
18. Amy Rule (2)
19. Alana Bremner (2)
20. Kendra Reynolds (uncapped)
21. Ariana Bayler (3)
22. Ruahei Demant (14)
23. Renee Wickliffe (42)

Making several changes, Glenn Moore has opted above all for experience, illustrated by a midfield trio of Kelly Brazier, Chelsea Alley and Carla Hohepa. Stacey Fluhler plays on the wing where she scored a fine try at Northampton.

Of the three uncapped players on tour yet to run out only Kendra Reynolds appears on the bench.

On this, her 56th appearance in a black shirt, Kendra Cocksedge will equal the record set by Fiao’o Faamausili. Congratulations to her.

These are difficult times for the Black Ferns. They are determined to put up a better showing in Castres, but it’s hard to see an immediate escape from French dominance.

We can be sure that the people in charge back home are already busy sorting out a recovery programme, while Alice Soper makes a powerful and convincing case for where things have gone wrong ( ).

It is a surprise for us Europeans to read that New Zealand women do not play enough rugby. The staple format, based on provinces, limits them to a handful of worthwhile games per season. With test matches so hard to come by too (let’s disregard pandemics for a moment) it means that too much emphasis has to be laid on the individual talents of top players. The writing was on the wall in 2014 when Ireland won their famous victory over New Zealand. The Black Ferns were severely undercooked, according to Soper.

Since then NZR has been guilty of neglect and the players are paying the price. So most sane observers are predicting another French victory and a deeply unwelcome barren tour for the cup holders.

Once the game is over, the rest of the world of rugby will look on with the greatest interest to see how the situation is to be resolved, and the World Cup retained.