ZB

Seven debutants, new captain: Black Ferns name first squad of the year

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 4 May 2022, 11:10am
Wayne Smith and the Black Ferns during a training session. (Photo / Photosport)
Wayne Smith and the Black Ferns during a training session. (Photo / Photosport)

Seven debutants, new captain: Black Ferns name first squad of the year

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 4 May 2022, 11:10am

The Black Ferns have announced their first squad of the year as the Rugby World Cup draws closer.

Black Ferns coaches Wayne Smith, Wesley Clarke and Whitney Hansen have named 31 players in the squad set to host Australia, Canada and USA next month.

Seven players are in line to make their Black Ferns debut, with the team to be led by new captain Ruahei Demant (Te Whanau a Apanui, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa).

Demant's debut for the Black Ferns in 2018 cemented a resilient return from three serious knee injuries and since then she has gone on to play 15 tests at first and second five-eighths.

"Lu (Ruahei) has the trust from this group. She is a clear, specific communicator and we see this as a great opportunity to grow her leadership," said Black Ferns director of rugby Wayne Smith.

Smith said the coaching group were impressed with what they saw from the debutants during Super Rugby Aupiki.

"These players really showed up in Aupiki. They are young, eager and really deserve the chance to have a crack."

Four of the debutants come into the front row: Bay of Plenty's Natalie Delamere and Angel Mulu, Canterbury's Lucy Anderson and Waikato's Tanya Kalounivale. Youngsters Kaipo Olsen-Baker (19) and Tafito Lafaele (21) join the selected loose forwards while Olympic gold medalist Ruby Tui is named in the Black Ferns for the first time.

Several experienced players including Les Elder, Eloise Blackwell and Renee Wickliffe have missed selection for the Pacific Four Series. Smith confirmed it was important to make sure all players can put their best foot forward when wearing the black jersey.

"These are players that have had a significant impact on the Black Ferns team for a long time. We want them to be in the best possible condition to be selected for Rugby World Cup."

The Pacific Four Series acts as a qualification pathway for the top tier of WXV, World Rugby's new global competition featuring the top 16 nations in women's rugby.

With Rugby World Cup 2021 (played in 2022) fast approaching, Smith said the Pacific Four Series is also about developing the Black Ferns game.

"We've been looking at videos and doing a lot of education around what type of game we want to play. There is potentially a bit of an experimental tinge to it but we know we have some catching up to do and now is the time to do it," said Smith.

Joanah Ngan-Woo, Luka Connor and Tanya Kalounivale have all recently left behind their day jobs and signed professional contracts for the remainder of 2022.

The Black Ferns squad (age/Super club/province/test caps)

Hookers

Luka Connor (25, Chiefs, Bay of Plenty, 4)
Natalie Delamere (25, Matatū, Bay of Plenty, new cap)
Georgia Ponsonby (22, Matatū, Canterbury, 2)

Props

Lucy Anderson (30, Matatū, Canterbury, new cap)
Tanya Kalounivale (23, Chiefs, Waikato, new cap)
Pip Love (32, Matatū, Canterbury, 15)
Angel Mulu (22, Chiefs, Bay of Plenty, new cap)
Krystal Murray (28, Blues, Northland, 1)
Leilani Perese (29, Counties Manukau, 11)
Amy Rule (21, Matatū, Canterbury, 3)

Locks

Chelsea Bremner (27, Matatū, Canterbury, 0)
Joanah Ngan Woo (26, Hurricanes, Wellington, 5)
Maiakawanakaulani Roos (20, Blues, Auckland, 3)

Loose Forwards

Alana Bremner (25, Matatū, Canterbury, 3)
Tafito Lafaele (21, Blues, Auckland, new cap)
Liana Mikaele Tu'u (20, Blues, Auckland, 4)
Kaipo Olsen-Baker (19, Hurricanes, Manawatu, new cap)
Kendra Reynolds (29, Matatū, Bay of Plenty, 1)

Halfbacks

Ariana Bayler (25, Chiefs, Waikato, 4)
Kendra Cocksedge (33, Matatū, Canterbury, 57)
Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (30, Chiefs, Counties Manukau, 6)

Inside Backs

Ruahei Demant (27, Blues, Auckland, 15) – captain
Amy du Plessis (22, Matatū, Canterbury, 0)
Carla Hohepa (36, Chiefs, Waikato, 28)
Patricia Maliepo (19, Blues, Auckland, 3)
Chelsea Semple (29, Chiefs, Waikato, 26)

Outside Backs

Renee Holmes (22, Matatū, Waikato, 1)
Ayesha Leti-I'iga (23, Hurricanes, Wellington, 12)
Cheyelle Robins-Reti (25, Hurricanes, Waikato, 3)
Grace Steinmetz (24, Matatū, Canterbury, 0)
Ruby Tui (30, Chiefs, Counties Manukau, new cap)

Unavailable due to injury: Charmaine McMenamin, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Grace Brooker, Kelsie Wills, Kennedy Simon.