One of the most miserly defences at the Rugby World Cup will meet the attacking prowess of the Black Ferns at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Black Ferns have scored 35 tries at the tournament – equal to the haul that title favourites England have scored.
France have only conceded two tries across four games, including one in their pool match against England, and will be intent on keeping the home side from crossing the line.
However, New Zealand assistant coach Wes Clarke said they had identified some holes in the French defence.
“Every system’s got weaknesses there’s only 15 people on the field and it’s a big field. We’re looking at the trends for where they’ve left some space potentially and then how we can get the ball there effectively while still staying in our systems and that could be behind them or on the side of them or through them.”
While the Black Ferns insist they had moved on from last year’s losses they will line-up against some familiar faces.
Nine of France’s starting line-up for the semi-final also started in the 29-7 victory over New Zealand in their last meeting.
Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith could list the ways that France would be dangerous.
“The halfback is an outstanding box kicker she gives herself a bit of room is real expert at it, they’ve got a left-footed fullback and a right-footed 10 [Caroline Drouin] and the 10 is probably the most attacking kicker in the world and got a box of tricks. Fifteen [Emilie Boulard] has got a big left foot and they’ve dominated games through territory,” Smith said.
Forward Alana Bremner, who made her New Zealand debut on the unsuccessful Northern Tour, said the Black Ferns were determined not to lose at home.
“It’s a feeling we don’t really want to feel again. We know we’ve got the team to be able to do it and we’ve just been building throughout the year for these kind of games.”
England coach Simon Middleton said the Black Ferns’ game against France would be too close to call.
Middleton would be an interested spectator of the second semi-final following his side’s game against Canada.
He said France’s recent winning record over the Black Ferns would be to the visitors’ advantage.
“Mirrors the men’s game a little bit in terms of France have a bit of a hoodoo over New Zealand so it’ll be interesting because the Black Ferns have played some spectacular rugby they’re the form side of the competition and there’s no doubt whatsoever when you look at how they’ve played. But it will be a different proposition playing France because they’ll be up against a really tough defensive side and a side that don’t fear them.”
England have won the last eight games against Canada – handing the amateur North Americans some heavy losses.
However, Canada captain Sophie de Goede said they would take a simple approach to trying to halt England’s record winning streak.
The world number 1 side are on a 29-game unbeaten run and de Goede believed success would come down to remembering who is on the other side of the field.
“Everyone’s human we’re all just rugby players and I don’t know that there’s any one recipe to it, it’s just remembering that we’re all human there’s no machine robots out there playing so we’ll do our best to give them a run for their money.”
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz