Rugby World Cup: Time to upgrade Black Ferns support structure, insists women’s rugby defender Alice Soper

But Soper says the women’s national team has simply moved beyond the part-time nature of its program and with a home World Cup looming, it’s time to invest more in the squad.

“I think we have a situation where our growth has quickly outpaced our support systems that have been put in place,” Soper told AM. “It’s nothing new – loud voices like mine have been trying to raise this issue for a little while.

“Now is the time for us to bring stakeholders together and have these conversations about what a successful women’s program would look like in New Zealand today.”

The Black Ferns have already set the tone for international women’s rugby, winning five of the previous eight World Cup titles and being named World Rugby Team of the Year 2017 for their most recent success.

But last year’s tour of England and France revealed how far New Zealand had fallen behind the rest of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, with northern unions establishing a women’s Six Nations competition to consistently deliver top-notch opportunities.

Prior to Moore’s resignation, NZ Rugby appointed former All Blacks manager Wayne Smith – recognized as one of the world’s sharpest rugby minds – as technical coach to support the Black Ferns, while the winning coach of the World Cup Sir Graham Henry has also lent his expertise to the women. team.

Neither appeal to head coaching solutions as the Ferns attempt to develop their own culture.

“It’s about embracing the unique and beautiful hearts of women’s football,” Soper said. “I think there are a lot of things that women’s rugby could teach the general public about how to do things.

“We could come from different backgrounds and we are a reflection of those who built us up, so we have a lot more influence from our Maori and pasifika players on how we shape and run our rugby. I would like to see this carried in our best team.”

As the World Cup approaches, Soper expects a more professional approach to women’s rugby from the national body.

“We had a situation with hybrid contracts and now we have a handful of full-fledged professionals, but we want everyone involved in women’s rugby – not just the players – to be able to do their job full-time.

“A lot of the issues have come from people being given women’s rugby as another responsibility on top of a long list of things to do. We need to have this dedicated resource, we need to have a strategic plan – to have a strategic plan, you have to have the business case.

“I’m not going to pretend it won’t cost money.”

The cash investment is one of the priorities of Silver Lake’s controversial $300m deal, endorsed by NZ Rugby and the NZ Rugby Players Association, and awaiting final approval from provincial unions.

Ida M. Morgan