Women's Super Rugby game will create many opportunities

Women's rugby in New Zealand moves to another level on Saturday with the first women's Super Rugby match between the Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park.

The postponement of this year's Rugby World Cup has had a silver lining for some Black Ferns.

Instead of international competition they will make history on the domestic scene when the first women's Super Rugby match is played between the Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday.

New Zealand Rugby's head of women's rugby development Cate Sexton said a women's Super Rugby match would not have happened this year if the world cup was going ahead, so they are making the most of the unexpected opportunity.

"It's a great step forward, it's something that we've been keen to do for a while. I think it will not only create more opportunities for players but also for coaching staff," Sexton said.

"So I'm really pleased we're underway with this one-off match this year and we're really looking forward to what we can put in play at the start of next year."

Chiefs assistant coach and former England international La Toya Mason was among those hoping that Saturday's match was not a one-off.

"Ideally from this every other franchise gets on board and there is a full-time women's Super Rugby programme," Mason said.

"It's just another route into the Black Ferns but to show also those young girls coming through that there is a nice pathway and it involves Super Rugby."

Suggestions that a four-team semi-professional women's Super Rugby competition could kick-off as early as February was met with cautious optimism by Blues assistant coach and former Black Fern, Anna Richards.

Richards was realistic about what would be required to move the women's game forward.

She said a Super Rugby competition would require investment and the likes of the proposed Silver Lake deal with New Zealand Rugby could be one way to make it happen.

"Whether it goes ahead or not money always helps grassroots, money helps, money greases the wheels, so however they get the money it'd be great to advance women's rugby."

The Blues and Chiefs have both named game day sides stacked with Black Ferns but they're also players who have day jobs and play club rugby on the weekend.

Mason said despite limited time together the Chiefs had a skillful back line that the Blues should watch out for.

"It's been really unique actually, obviously all of the girls coming from Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Counties, Waikato, we've had to bond quite quickly but a lot of the girls know each other through Black Ferns, Barbarians so it's more of just a group of friends coming together to play ball with each other."

The Blues have mixed an all-international front row with teenage playmakers in the back line and captain Eloise Blackwell said the side was a good representation of what women in the region could do.

"We're quite fortunate in th Blues squad that quite a few of the girls have come from the Auckland region and that's obviously no disrespect to girls in the other region, we just have a lot of talent within our region but we're quite lucky that the girls that have been thrown into the mix we're familiar with and they've just slotted in really well."

Anna Richards said the milestone match had caught the attention of those still in the game as well as former players.

"There's a lot of talk overseas, like a lot of people I've played against they all want to watch the game, but you have to live in New Zealand to see the cream, people are not very happy overseas but around the country former Black Ferns are stoked."

The women have also recieved support from their respective men's Super Rugby sides with Chiefs and All Blacks captain Sam Cane handing out the Chiefs jerseys last week.

Blues stand-in captain Tom Robinson is also positive about the change around their training facility.

"We welcomed them to our headquarters, well it's their headquarters too now, talking to them and how excited they were it was pretty cool. It's all one big family now."