Farah Palmer Cup finals approach/Black Ferns in full RWC2021 preparation

Farah Palmer Cup finals approach
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Now that the Farah Palmer Cup finals places are confirmed, both the Premiership and Championship divisions will be decided on Saturday, September 10.

Some players involved in those two fixtures are also with the New Zealand Black Ferns women’s team. They are currently in full preparations ahead of the 2021 Rugby World Cup; postponed due to the global pandemic. So with the concentration on the women’s game well deserved, attention has never been as concentrated for NZ Rugby supporters.

Primarily though, this weekend’s semi-finals had shown the strength of the game across the 13-team competition. One broken into two divisions, and a championship competed for since its inception back in 2016. Named in honour of the former Black Ferns captain, and current NZ Rugby (NZR) board member, Dr Farah Palmer.

In the past six seasons, the skill on display has been heralded for the development of the feeder system to the Black Ferns. And even with the disruption of the Coronavirus pandemic, the FPC (Farah Palmer Cup) is a success story. That is both on the field and in the development of players, in new professionalism throughout the elite level, as much as in recognition and in the support across New Zealand and beyond.

The above draw saw a pair of unbeaten, competition-leading teams succeed, as well as a pair of sides who developed their games perfectly over the entire season. Now they have earned their places, the final four teams securing a place in the respective finals.

2022 Farah Palmer Cup finals approach

Unsurprisingly, the ‘big guns’ held firm under the pressure of knockout rugby. Multi-time Premiership champions Canterbury – with the indomitable Kendra Cocksedge playing in her penultimate match for her province – did not miss a beat, when defeating Wellington, 31-3.

Note: this week, Black Ferns star halfback Kendra Cocksedge called time on her stellar career. A record-breaking, multi-World Cup-winning test player, she will play her 100th provincial game this Saturday, ahead of what will be her last Rugby World Cup on home soil. Kia Kaha, to a fine rugby player.

Then last year’s reigning Premiership winners Waikato had to deal with the Auckland Storm. And the threat from their regional rivals proved far stronger than the hosts would have imagined. Auckland converted chances that other sides might not have, and the scoreboard pressure got to Waikato, who narrowly lost 21-26 in front of a stunned home crowd.

Down in the Hawke’s Bay on Friday night, the Tui would faced up to the improved Northland Kauri women. This was a pure contest, as the Northland side earned three wins that displayed the qualities of this group in 2022. However, even after leading the opening half, it was to no avail. The Hawke’s Bay Tui would kick into another gear, holding off the challenge,  28-19.

The remaining place was ‘snapped up’ by the Otago Spirit late Sunday afternoon. Another of the leading teams, they hosted the Harbour Hibiscus in the sublime conditions of Forsyth-Barr Stadium. While their opponents did cross the home side’s line, it couldn’t stop the Otago women from romping out to a 42-17 win.

All this was achieved in a year where the wahine of NZ Rugby excelled in a more professional capacity, than at any other time. As the Super Rugby Aupuki competition was launched, four franchise teams were created to cover all regions of the national game. A collective effort from the game’s stakeholders to promote a new generation. With a complement of the women who played for either the Blues, Chiefs Manawa, Hurricanes Poua, and South Island team the Matatū, the majority of those involved would play in the Farah Palmer Cup finals, as Black Ferns players completed their international duties.

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And with the Farah Palmer Cup finals places secured, the lineup confirmed for Saturday, September 10 looks like this:

Premiership: Canterbury v Auckland Storm – Rugby Park, Christchurch

Championship: Otago Spirit v Hawke’s Bay Tui – Clutha Showgrounds, Balclutha

Once complete, Bunnings Farah Palmer Cup supporters’ thoughts should then point attention toward the impending Rugby World Cup (RWC).

Black Ferns in full preparation for Rugby World Cup 2021

Their last game was on August 27, with the next Black Ferns match scheduled for September 24. In that time, the Farah Palmer Cup finals will have been completed, and head coach Wayne Smith will have deduced his formula and especially, a playing roster to ‘put in the mahi’.

The Professor was brought in with the idea of regeneration, and from the outside, it appears that his group has gelled and is improving the style of play and especially, the team culture. Smith said after the last game; “We know what to do, we’ve shown that on the field, but it’s the mental side of the game we’ve got to be prepared for every time.

“You can’t come to someone else’s country and expect to walk over them. They march behind the flag and sing the national anthem. It’s a totally different kettle of fish.”

Nobody can presume if this formula will provide the host nation a better opportunity to secure the World Cup trophy. One that has been in near constant possession for a good number of decades. Only recently has the formula been off-target; no better illustrated than on the end-of-year tour to England and France.

No idea can be taken from the last homebound preparations before the final preseason fixture against Japan either. That prep needed will be critically important, as travel and conditioning will be high on the list for inbound rugby nations. They too will enjoy last preparations, so which side should be most feared as they arrive in New Zealand?

No doubt, it is England by a country mile.

Their might and power are undeniable. And so enjoy able to watch too, by association the Red Roses might watch their football sisters and raise a World Cup yet again. A tough bunch, this group of women sit fairly above France, as key challenges for the 2021 RWC title.

Managing Editor Ryan Jordan sees potential in the Springbok women’s rugby team. If not at this event, then certainly in 2025. The same may apply to Ireland. Established of course, yet the entire rugby landscape of Irish Rugby is blooming, so why cannot the Emerald Isles’ women not carry on with the ‘winning in Aotearoa’ theme running through the visiting XVs camp?

This is not a total overview – far be it. More can be found on research, as well singular nations. So this page cannot exclusively cover the Rugby World Cup, though central stores were affected directly, the public address from the globally-famed, Suzanne Paul.

 

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