We continue our series looking back at previous Women's
Rugby World Cup winning sides by catching up with New Zealand
captain Farah Palmer, one of the true greats of the Women's
RELIVE THE PREVIOUS TOURNAMENTS WITH WINNERS KATHY FLORES (USA - 1991) AND GILL BURNS (ENGLAND - 1994)
The name Farah Palmer will always feature prominently in Women's Rugby World Cup history after she captained the New Zealand Blacks Ferns to three successive titles between 1998 and 2006 with an unblemished record.
Palmer retired from international rugby after the hat-trick of titles, bringing down the curtain on a remarkable career in which she played 35 tests in 10 years - 30 of them as captain - and during which time New Zealand totally dominated the Women's Game.
Many have tried to unlock the secret of the Black Ferns' success on the World Cup stage, but as Palmer took a stroll down memory lane with Total Rugby Radio it was easy to see where the edge may have come from, certainly in Amsterdam in 1998.
New Zealand had not played in the tournament four years earlier in Scotland, but the 1991 semi finalists arrived in the Dutch capital on something of a mission and determined to realise their full potential.
"We really didn't know what to expect but we decided that we wanted to go out there and really prove that we were possible champions, that rugby was New Zealand's number one game and that we were here and we were serious," recalled Palmer.
"I remember we were quite proud of the way we dressed and made sure that we had proper presentation and leading up to the game and after the games we had water and bread rolls and things like that one sidelines.
"We didn't really have any expectations of know what to expect, but many of the players had never left New Zealand so it was all a bit of an eye-opener for them.
"I don't know whether it's true or not, but I have a memory of us being the only team that walked around with water bottles in 1998 and then when we went back in 2002 it was the norm, everyone was walking around with water bottles and having bananas and lollies immediately after the game.
"Whereas in 1998 I think it was a little but different then and people were kind of looking at us all dressed up in Canterbury, who were our sponsors at that time, kind of thinking wow, check them out, they're all dressed up and they've got four or five different outfits, so we appreciated then that the New Zealand Rugby Union did put a lot of sponsorship into our team.
"Nowadays I think other teams are definitely catching up and it's getting tighter and tighter."
Palmer's first taste of the World Cup could not have gone better were it written by a Hollywood scriptwriter, the Black Ferns under her leadership running riot to defeat Germany 134-6 in their opening Pool match.
"It was a great game," recalled Palmer. "I remember Germany seemed to be quite happy just playing alongside us and smiling at us the whole time and we didn't know what to expect, so we went out there quite serious about it.
"We weren't taking the game lightly or anything and then we realised the level in Germany wasn't really that high, but we didn't take the mickey out of them or anything, we just treated it like a normal game and tried to put some moves together and practice some moves that we would be using on some of the other teams.
"I think that Germany really enjoyed the game as well."
There was no let up in the following matches with Scotland dispatched 76-0 and Spain 46-3 before defending champions England stood in New Zealand's way of a first World Cup final. England did come closest to halting the Black Ferns' juggernaut in that tournament, but were still soundly beaten 44-11.
Palmer, though, insists their passage to the final was anything but as straightforward as the results would suggest, revealing a punishing drill that was a huge motivator to keep their try-line unbroken no matter who the opponent.
"I think we were quite hard on ourselves and we had quite high standards. I remember our coach Darryl Suasua didn't want us to let anybody cross our line so that was kind of our motivation during the game, to have no team score against us, so when another team scored against us we were quite disappointed and hard on ourselves.
"I think the punishment for every point scored against us was we had to do a 'Hennie Muller', which is a notorious run around the field, so we had high standards. We didn't think it was easy at all, but we were really pleased with our performance."
A try conceded meant five Hennie Muller's had to be run, either after the match or at the next training session, so that meant running down the side of the pitch, then running the diagonal, back up the other side of the pitch and coming back on the diagonal to the starting point to complete one.
"That kind of thing we did to keep our own standards up. We didn't know what to expect so every game we went into we treated it as if this was going to be a close game and that game against England we were really treating it quite seriously ... we were quite a serious bunch back in 1998!"
All that stood between the Black Ferns and trophy now was 1991 winners USA - who remain to this day the only side to beat New Zealand on the World Cup stage - but four tries from Vanessa Cootes ensured her side ran out 44-12 winners to allow Palmer to get her hands on the silverware.
"I think I remember being put from hooker to number 8 late in the game and I just remember thinking wow this is unreal, we are going to win the World Cup towards the end of the game," recalled Palmer, now mother to an eight-month-old son Cody.
"The final whistle went and everyone was just jumping up and down, but being away from home - we had a small group of people that made the trip from New Zealand - it was kind of surreal.
"I was just buzzing [when I picked up the trophy], I think I was grinning from ear to ear and was really pleased. We hadn't made it to the 1994 World Cup and I know there were a lot of players that were disappointed that we couldn't go in 1994 and for them to be there and part of it in 1998 was really awesome.
"I think I was just quite naive as well, I really was excited about the whole thing but I don't think I realised the impact that it would have on our lives when we went back to New Zealand.
"I didn't go back with the original team, I stayed on because many of us hadn't ever been overseas and so it was an opportunity for me to go travelling, but those that did go back said there was a huge reception.
"When I did go back there was still a buzz in the air about the team and what they had done. I think at the time the All Blacks weren't doing so well, so all the attention was on us and we were like the golden girls of rugby in New Zealand for quite a few years.
"Secondary schools girl's rugby went through the roof and there was teams popping up all over the country wanting to play the game because we were world champions. We were on breakfast shows and radio stations and all sorts of things so it was fairly amazing and that carried on for a couple of years."
1998, though, was only the beginning of Palmer's love affair with the World Cup.