England winger Kat Merchant shares with us the experience of playing the world champion Black Ferns in back to back games recently. With England winning the final game at Twickenham, Merchant says that she's already looking forward to the 6 Nations in 2010. Merchant was a stand-out player for England last season and caught the eye with some storming breaks in the final game against New Zealand.
Having never faced New Zealand before, preparing for the two test games was exciting but nerve racking at the same time, especially as it was going to be my first game back after five weeks off with a knee injury.
The first training camp was physically demanding and intense as usual. With the typical daily routine of morning monitoring followed by core before we had even had our breakfast! After this was the morning journey to Staines RFC for the first training session. On return to Shepperton hotel we all get lunch then chill out before our second training session at Staines. Post training nutritionist Gavin gives us a lovely protein shake and our strength and conditioning coach Dan makes us do pool recovery before we can have dinner and a team meeting.
The team feeling on camp was good and we all believed we could beat the Black Ferns. The days seemed to drag a bit as we were all just raring to face the world champions. Finally match day came. Conditions weren't great as it was very windy and rainy. The game was frustrating as we didn't play to our full potential and made more handling errors than normal.
After analysis we had two days off before we were back in camp. Despite our frustrations from the game, the feeling amongt the group was great. The prospect of getting another chance to play New Zealand at Twickenham was enough motivation for anyone.
On the day before match day the backs went on a team bonding trip to Starbucks, chatting over lattes, while the forwards stayed behind to jump and lift.
On the morning of the game, me and my roomie Fiona Pocock eased our nerves by listening and dancing to Cocky's ipod. Rachael Burford plaited all our hair, whilst Jane Leonard kindly ironed all our number ones shirts. We had a fantastic pre-match motivational meeting, and I could hardly contain my excitement as the adrenaline started to kick in.
Warming up in the changing rooms at Twickenham was slightly surreal, then we ran out of the tunnel to warm up on the main pitch and it really started to sink in. The crowd was great and I couldn't wait for kick-off.
The game was amazing. It was fast and very physical. When Cath Spencer scored, the whole team went wild. We stayed composed, with the forwards getting great clean ball and the backs executing great running lines. We kept applying the pressure, with clever kicking and were leading all the way and when the final whistle went we knew we had done it, we had beaten the world champions. It felt great to beat them and we knew we were one step closer to our World Cup dream.
We know that New Zealand will go back and train harder than ever in preparation for the world cup, so we know that we will have to train even harder. Personally, I am still buzzing from the game and can't wait for the RBS 6 Nations to kick-off in February.