Ahead of their first test match on home soil since the 2022 World Cup, the Black Ferns were in Rotorua yesterday for a training match against Rotorua Boys’ High School’s First XV.

It’s the kind of challenge the Black Ferns squad love, according to the team’s director of rugby and Rotorua Boys’ High School old boy Allan Bunting.

“Playing against the First XV means we get to play against a lot more speed and a little bit more power,” Bunting told the Rotorua Daily Post.

“It’s great for our ladies and something that our ladies really want.”

Black Ferns hooker Luka Connor said the day was “awesome”.

“It was special for me coming back to the Bay to be able to mix and mingle with our top teams, our top schools,” Connor, who is from Ōpōtiki, said.

“The way they looked after us and went out there and played some great rugby was exciting, exciting for us going into next week and exciting for them to keep growing and learn what they can from the Black Ferns as well.”

Connor said the training session was preparation for the next week’s test match against Australia’s Wallaroos in Hamilton.

“It’s so we could do all our plays and phases and build as a team with our new combinations,” Connor said.

“There are a few new girls in the squad so it was pretty exciting to be out there and have a run around together.”

Connor said another bonus was the “amazing” kai.

“The awesome ladies in the kitchen really looked after us. There was plenty of food.”

The Black Ferns were welcomed to the school with a powhiri which Connor described as “very special”.

“It was special to hear the culture of those young boys who have a great set of lungs on them and it was special to be welcomed.”

For team director Allan Bunting and assistant coach Mike Delany, the return to Rotorua Boys’ High School was special for different reasons.

“For me personally, to come back home to Ruakura, back to Te Arawa was pretty special,” Bunting said.

“We’ve got a lot of really great memories here.”

Bunting said he remembered spending a bit of time in Rotorua Boys’ High School principal Chris Grinter’s office.

“Some of it was good and some of it I can cackle about now but it wasn’t too good back then.”

Bunting said he had since grown in his identity.

“I got to stand up in the powhiri this morning and really be strong about who I am today.”

Black Ferns assistant coach Mike Delany said it was “awesome” to be back and play against his old team.

“They really test us. The girls love it. They rise to the occasion and it’s a real challenge.”

Looking ahead to the Black Ferns’ game against Australia, Delany said the team would need their training.

“[The Wallaroos] are going to be pretty well-polished. They’ll only get better and better and we’ve got to be onto it with this game coming up.

“I think it’s going to be a different beast than the first test.”

Bunting said the Black Ferns were “excited” to be playing back in New Zealand against some “quality opposition”.

“The country’s seen the type of rugby that we play and I’m loving being a part of it. Hopefully, we see the crowds back out there to support us.”

Rotorua Boys’ High School principal Chris Grinter said the staff and students really enjoyed their time with the Black Ferns.

“Our rugby boys really enjoyed the chance to run against and compete with these wonderfully talented world champions.”

Grinter said having two old boys in the team’s coaching staff was another positive of the day.

“It was a good chance for us to acknowledge their successes and enjoy catching up with them.”

2023-09-22T00:16:58Z dg43tfdfdgfd