Women's Rugby World Cup 2010
Black Ferns gunning for fourth title
Huw Baines
August 17, 2010
Melissa Berry, Cheryl Soon, Melissa Ruscoe and Mandisa Williams pose with the Women's Rugby World Cup, Women's Rugby World Cup England 2010 Official Launch, City Hall, London, England, August 17, 2010
Wales' Melissa Berry, Australia's Cheryl Soon, New Zealand's Melissa Ruscoe and South Africa's Mandisa Williams pose with the Women's Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
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Black Ferns captain Melissa Ruscoe has vowed to put a difficult year aside as her team go in search of a fourth successive Women's Rugby World Cup title.

The tournament kicks off in Surrey on Friday with New Zealand drawn in a tough group alongside Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Australia, South Africa and Wales.

The Black Ferns were in England as recently as last November, when they shared a series with Catherine Spencer's side. Ruscoe was left at home with concussion but has vowed to avenge a high-profile 10-3 Twickenham defeat, which left the World Cup hosts with new levels of confidence after a first win over their rivals since 2001.

"We're using it as an advantage," she said. "The girls knew we played badly, but we only just lost. That confidence is still there and we don't want it to happen again."

While they are a world-leading side, the Ferns have endured a challenging time on home soil. Their National Provincial Championship was shelved by the NZRU due to financial constraints and with their Test programme sparse at best, Ruscoe's charges are short on competitive action.

"We're disappointed that it got cancelled," she said. "It's a big part of our rugby and a big part of promoting women's rugby in New Zealand. To lose that is disappointing but we've had a couple of good weeks training throughout the year and everyone is fit and ready to go. We can't dwell on that and we've just got to put the black jersey on and play like we know we can.

"I think it was a bit of a let-down and I hope we get that reinstated for next year. I think it would be a massive loss to women's rugby, I really think it would be quite detrimental to women's rugby if it doesn't."

Ruscoe, a remarkable athlete who previously won caps for New Zealand at football before switching codes, believes that the IRB have missed a trick in not staging the World Cup back-to-back with the men's edition in 2011, but nevertheless remains excited by the tournament's capacity to increase the profile of the women's game.

"I think this is good timing for women's rugby," she said. "In hindsight maybe the IRB should have put it next year in New Zealand, a month before the men's, that would have been massive for women's rugby and would have put a good showcase on. We've missed that boat, but this is the next big thing."

New Zealand does rugby-mad as well as anywhere else and while her Ferns may not generate as many column inches as their male counterparts, Ruscoe can call on support from the All Blacks at will.

"The All Blacks are great and from a personal perspective we have a lot of contact with them down in Christchurch," she said. "They're always there to be supportive and help us out. It's something with the NZRU, we could push women's rugby a bit more in the media."

Post-World Cup Ruscoe is keen to build on the current number of Tests available, with her side's Tri-Nations-flavoured group providing a seed of inspiration.

"Maybe it's going to work to our advantage," she said. "The three of us can head home and say 'look, why don't we get this going?'. I don't know that it would be that difficult to run it in conjunction with the men's. If the men came out of first class we'd easily get another team travelling!"

© Scrum.com
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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