Source: Fiona Goodall - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

The Black Ferns to Europe again?

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More unconfirmed reports come from New Zealand pointing to a 2024 European Tour.

In all likelihood it would include a fourth trip to Twickenham Stadium, where astonishingly they have yet to win. For the record, the previous visits were 2009-12.

We can imagine NZR and the team management wrestling with the details: when precisely? – the global calendar is filling up nicely – how many countries, how many matches? Again the most probable structure would be similar to the 2021 tour. There the Ferns played two games in England, then crossed the Channel to play two more in France.

They were suffering far worse than the Europeans from the effects of Covid-19. Four consecutive defeats proved the point. But three years later the conditions should be much more balanced.

Assuming that this guesswork is anywhere near correct, it would provide another big attraction in a year already containing a Six Nations and the second running of WXV. And the next RWC would be only one year away, so a chance for Kiwis to grow accustomed to strange English ways in good time.

A more extended tour?

If the NZR are planning on an even larger scale, that would be most welcome. The remaining 6N sides would love another crack at defeating the world champions. But finance and the calendar are two big stumbling-blocks lying in wait.

For the Black Ferns the trip would be just what they need. After the shocks of WXV1 (losses to England and France), they are even more aware of the need for more high-grade competition. The only way they can achieve is to return to Europe; they have played host to two major competitions in succession.

Then comes more guesswork: how many spectators could be attracted to HQ? Much will depend on the success of the visit of Ireland already penned in for the coming 6N.

58,000 were willing to turn up for the final rites of last year’s championship, but that was against France. Will the Girls in Green have the same pulling power? And will would-be attenders need to pick and choose between costly trips to TW2? At least the entry prices won’t be at the sky-high level of men’s matches.

The other big advance is the disappearance of the double-header. For that the poser was: the women before or after the men? The sight of an English crowd disappearing in droves after the men had beaten the All Blacks should have made the administrators’ minds up a decade ago, but it didn’t.

Now the challenge is more straightforward: to encourage people to come and watch a women’s game on its own merits. World Rugby’s recent stats provide a telling argument: in the WXV the ball was in play far longer than in men’s tests. There is more open play, more action.

It’s a bit early for you to pick your teams; but do go ahead if you wish.