Grant: Preparation key to England success

(IRB.COM) Saturday 3 December 2011
 Grant: Preparation key to England success
Victoria Grant hopes lessons will be learnt in time for the 2012 tour

New Zealand captain Victoria Grant was able to see the positives from a 2-0 series defeat by England, but admits the world champions must have better preparation before the teams lock horns again on English soil next year.

The three Tests were New Zealand’s first since they beat England 13-10 last September to win a fourth successive Women’s Rugby World Cup crown and the Black Ferns had hit little time together to prepare for such a tough challenge.

“I was very proud of the girls and how they got up for this last Test,” Grant, who returned from an ankle injury in the 8-8 draw on Saturday, told “We threw everything at them and in that last 10 minutes we had chances in their 22 but there were too many errors which was frustrating.

“Our preparation was a big factor in losing those first two games. We haven’t played in over a year and our last rugby at all was in August, so we just haven’t had enough time together. We weren’t prepared enough to play a team who did have that preparation and it showed, especially in the first Test. We need to come back next year for these games a lot more prepared.

“We would like to play more games but even if we could get more camps into our schedule it would be better than what we did this year. We could play internal games if we needed to,  but we didn’t have any of that this year.

“We did our own training in our regions and we didn’t come together till two days before we flew out – it’s just not enough. We have also lost a huge number of experienced players from the World Cup so it was always going to be tough.”

New Zealand certainly had their chances to win the final Test at Esher RFC, particularly in the last 20 minutes after replacement Natasha Hunt’s try had levelled the scores at 8-8, cancelling out Renee Wickliffe’s first half try with Katy McLean and Kelly Brazier each kicking a penalty.

Positive steps forward

With Grant, Brazier and Wickliffe becoming more prominent as the Black Ferns pushed on in search of victory, the world champions created several opportunities, ultimately wasting them with passes going astray into touch and dropping balls.

Despite ending the tour without a victory against their biggest rivals in the Women’s Game, two-time World Cup winner Grant was able to see positives in the fact that a squad shorn of many of its experienced players had begun to blood new players as they look towards WRWC 2014 in France.

“The positives for us are probably that we finally had a chance to put out some young players in Test match rugby, but we cannot come and play a top team like England with no game time and expect to win anymore.

“We went into the last World Cup probably with the most experience we ever had and now we have lost a lot of that experience and we are just rebuilding so we need that game time and those weekends together to make positive steps forward.”

England coach Gary Street, whose side won back to back Tests against the Black Ferns for the first time in history with the 10-0 win at Twickenham and 21-7 success in Esher, was also delighted by the emergence of new players like teenage back row Alexandra Matthews in the series.

“We have made huge strides over the last year and it’s just two months now to our first Six Nations game. We will enjoy this win but we will be back looking at that competition pretty soon,” admitted Street, whose side have now played 13 Tests in 2011.

“We have unearthed some fantastic talent in the last few weeks and we will move on positively. We want the game to improve all the time and when people watch it to see a high standard of the game. The more matches all teams play the better but we can only look after ourselves. There was some great rugby played in this series and we have had some great support from the public.”