Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor and captain Grace Hamilton are full of hope heading into the 2021 Rugby World Cup, despite being drawn alongside the Black Ferns in Pool A on Friday morning.
History will be against the Wallaroos as they head into the tournament in September, with Australia yet to claim a victory over their trans-Tasman rivals after 16-matches. Nestor won't let the news detract from the team's confidence heading into the tournament though.
"It is what it is, you get put in your pool and deal with what you get given," Nestor said on Friday. "It's not going to be anything new - us playing the Kiwis.
"It's a tough pool, but I love tough. Bring the challenges on, we'll enjoy the challenges. We would all be looking forward to any tough game. If you go in thinking you're going to get an easy game at a World Cup, you might get toppled, so not a good attitude to have."
It's only been in recent years that the Wallaroos have started to play regular Test matches, almost all of which have been against the Black Ferns. While the score lines over the last four years have shown New Zealand's dominance, the gap between the sides has started to shrink.
"I said to the girls a couple of years ago, when we played at Eden Park, we will beat the Black Ferns. If it just happens to be at the World Cup, that would be quite a nice environment to do it in.
"Just over 12 months ago we got bullied in the first Test last year, we had eight balls stripped from our carries, so I think there's certain areas, the core skills in our game that we've been working really hard on.
"The girls could vouch for the fact they've been working really hard. If we get our core skills to where we need to be, people will see a much better Wallaroos performance against the Black Ferns just simply because of that."
Due to COVID all nine of the Wallaroos scheduled Test matches for 2020 were cancelled, while state border closures have meant Nestor has been forced to coach his squad, who are mainly based on the east coast, from Perth. It's thrown up plenty of issues for the side ahead of the World Cup, but Nestor has found advantages.
"Missing out on the Test matches that we were scheduled to play this year, there's no argument against that, that was not the greatest situation, but the girls have done really well to sink their teeth into the detail that we've provided them. That'll benefit how we perform."
"COVID was tough in terms of everybody having to change and deal with a different way of having to prepare themselves as athletes. But I think for the girls who've really sunk their teeth into some analysis, they've actually seen some really good development. It's provided a really good advantage in that respect."
Finishing sixth in 2017, the Wallaroos won just one of their pool matches before they defeated Ireland to reach the fifth place play-off where they lost to Canada. It was a disappointing result for the team and something Hamilton hopes to improve on.
"We were obviously not happy with that end point for us in 2017 and we definitely want to improve on that, so we'll be looking to do that," Hamilton said. "We'd love to go out there and win the World Cup, so for us not having the preparation and the nine Test matches we were going to have this year was disappointing.
"But everyone's in the same boat, the world went into lockdown. For us we've got to see ourselves at a level playing field at the moment, we've just got to be the best prepped team we can be leading up to 2021."