Get to know more about the star of both the New Zealand’s sevens and 15s teams – flying winger Portia Woodman

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Black Ferns icon Portia Woodman

Few players in the world score eight tries in one Test match… in a World Cup. That’s Woodman, the scorching New Zealand winger who has shone in both the 15s game and sevens.

She is one of the most recognisable faces in the women’s game. She has won a 15s World Cup, a Sevens World Cup, a Commonwealth Games gold medal and an Olympic sevens silver medal.

She is the top try-scorer in Women’s World Sevens Series history with 195, and both her father, Kawhena, and uncle, Fred, represented the All Blacks.

Woodman was also ninth in Rugby World magazine’s list of the 50 Most Influential People in Rugby in 2018 – the highest ranked woman – because she speaks out about issues in the game too.

At the last World Cup she questioned whether any man could handle the playing schedule the women had to endure, she is happy to talk about coaching failings from previous Black Ferns regimes and she is vocal about the need for the women’s game to stand apart from the men’s game, to be its own show.

Here is a Q&A we did with Woodman ahead of the 2017 World Cup…

Has sport always been a big part of your life?

Yes, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing it. Athletics was my main sport but at 16 or 17 I realised I wasn’t good enough, so I switched to netball. I was aiming for the Silver Ferns and was in the Accelerant squad (that fast-tracks emerging talent) in 2012.

Then you switched to rugby…

When sevens got into the Olympics, New Zealand Rugby went around the country giving girls the chance to have a crack at Rio 2016. I thought I’d give it a go and got clearance from Northern Mystics, my netball franchise. I’ve been playing sevens ever since.

Does your dad give you advice?

He was ecstatic when I chose to play rugby. As soon as I get back from a tournament, he says: “Have you got the footage? Want to go through it?” He’s rugby crazy – our whole family is. He’s a great support.

Black Ferns icon Portia Woodman

Champions: Portia Woodman and Sarah Goss with the Women’s World Cup (Getty Images)

Are you a full-time rugby player?

I’m lucky with sevens that I’m fully professional, so rugby is our life and I love it. This year they gave us the option of playing 15s and I put my hand up.

What are the differences between sevens and 15s?

More people, less space! Having played it a bit more now, I’ve realised how hard 15s is, game plan-wise. I never thought I’d say that. I love 15s, though, and I’ve learnt so much that I can transfer into sevens. Like I said, there’s not as much space, so if you get the ball it’s learning to create space and find gaps.

Your first-ever game of 15s was in a Test against England. Were you nervous? 

Surprisingly not. The girls around me on my debut (in 2013) were so experienced, so I felt confident in what I needed to do.

How important is your Maori heritage?

It’s a big part of my life. I’m not a fluent speaker but it’s understanding where you come from and who you are. Mum and Dad instilled that in us from when we were young.

This Q&A originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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