They won four consecutive World Cups before losing in the 2014 final, winning the first International Rugby Board (IRB)-sponsored Cup in 1998, the 2002 World Cup in Barcelona, the 2006 World Cup in Edmonton, Canada, and the 2010 World Cup in London, England. The Black Ferns have participated in most WRWC events since its inauguration in 1991, only missing the 1994 championship in Scotland. They also won the Canada Cup in 1996, 2000, and 2005, and the Churchill Cup in 2004.
Farah Palmer, who had been captain since 1997, lost her captaincy in 2005 due to a shoulder injury. However, she was honoured as International Women's (Rugby) Personality of the Year at the IRB Awards. During that year, Rochelle Martin and Anna Richards led the team in the 2005 test series against England, which the Black Ferns won 2-0. For the 5th Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada, Farah Palmer fought her way back into the Black Ferns team. After again leading the team to World Cup victory, Palmer announced her retirement from the Black Ferns in September 2006.
While rugby is the most popular spectator game in New Zealand, the Black Ferns have suffered in the past from similar problems to any women's sport—under-funding, lack of support and lack of publicity. The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and IRB have been criticised for not doing more to promote women's rugby, although support is beginning to build in those organisations. The NZRU started funding the Black Ferns in 1995, thus giving a great boost to their game. Accordingly, the Black Ferns have benefitted from being included in NZRU High Performance initiatives. Along with professional coaches the team has had access to professional development resources such as analysis. The Black Ferns have used Verusco Technologies TryMaker video analysis system, as used by the All Blacks. In more recent times, the team's profile has risen greatly at a grassroots level, due in great part to their string of successes, and it is increasingly seen to be a national team on the same basis as any other.
In January 2010 NZRU announced that the National Provincial Competition (NPC) will have to go due to budget cuts. This has been a shock for many women players especially since it is a World Cup year. Former captain Farah Palmer was one of the women who commented on that. NZRU said women's domestic rugby is one of many victims of the tight financial times. They have faced a barrage of criticism for their decision. General manager of provincial rugby Neil Sorenson said NZRU is going to replace the competition with camps and trials for the Black Ferns.
After the Black Ferns won the World Cup in 2010 and due to efforts of many rugby players in New Zealand the NPC was re-installed. The Auckland Storm with Emma Jensen captaining the side, won the final against Canterbury 38-12 in Christchurch. It was the Auckland Storm 5th consecutive title.
The first four games listed below - played at RugbyFest 1990 - are not generally accepted as being internationals by New Zealand authorities. However, in men's rugby it is general practice to award full international status to any games where ONE side considers a game to be an international. As a result all games in that tournament have been treated as full internationals in this article.
^"Sport, Fitness and Leisure". New Zealand Official Yearbook. Statistics New Zealand. 2000. Retrieved 21 July 2008. Traditionally New Zealanders have excelled in rugby union, which is regarded as the national sport, and track and field athletics.