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PREVIEW: Black Ferns Trial (2022)

Ahead of tonight’s Black Ferns trial between Rawata and Ngalingali in Pukekohe, we take a look back on Black Ferns trials of the past and what to expect in the 2022 edition.

The first New Zealand women’s national rugby team trial (well before the ‘Black Ferns’ even existed) was held at the New Zealand Police College in Porirua in 1993.

It was a humble occasion. No television coverage. No paid entry. No barroom speculation about who might make a World Cup squad.

A New Zealand XV, later acknowledged as the Black Ferns, beat a NZRFU President’s XV, 34-12.

World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Anna Richards, playing halfback, scored two tries for the victors. She later won all four of her World Cup accolades playing first-five.

Richards’ coaches Ngalingali tonight alongside Ranfurly Shield winning Otago prop Scott Mason.

The Black Ferns have a World Cup to defend. People know and the stakes are high.

Rawata has 242 combined Black Ferns test caps, Ngalingali, 235. The average age of both squads is 26.

In 2018 the Black Ferns XVs players were awarded their first ever professional contracts. Of the 46 players involved in this trial, a quarter are playing tonight, including Eloise Blackwell, Les Elder, Charmaine McMenamin, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Chelsea Alley, Kendra Cocksedge, Ruahei Demant, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and Renee Wickliffe.

If you think they are competitive, perhaps the players with the biggest point to prove are those who haven’t been capped yet. There are four on each side.

Victoria Edmonds, Maia Joseph, Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Chryss Viliko on the Rawata side haven’t worn the black jersey.

Loose forward Edmonds only returned to rugby in 2021 to honour the passing of her grandfather. The 32-year old police officer became the first women to play 50 matches for Waikato, scoring a try in a come from behind victory over Canterbury in the Farah Palmer Cup final.

Nearly a decade younger, loosehead prop Awhina Tangen-Wainohu scored in the same game. Together Edmonds and Tangen-Wainohu helped the Chiefs Manawa win Super Rugby Aupiki. Tangen-Wainohu debuted in the FPC for Hawke’s Bay out of Karamu High School in 2017, since flourishing in the Waikato, making 15 appearances.

Fellow loosehead Chryss Viliko is a product of Onehunga High School. She played the first of her 14 games for Auckland in 2018. Unfortunately she missed much of 2021 while recovering from an ACL knee reconstruction. She has bounced back strongly in 2022, featuring for the Blues in Aupiki and helping Marist win the Coleman Shield

Halfback Maia Joseph is the daughter of former All Black Jamie Joseph. She has played 11 games for Otago out of the University club.

In the Ngalingali roster is halfback Di Hiini. She made her debut for Canterbury in 2012 and has played 31 games, despite the presence of Kendra Cocksedge. She has been a mainstay of the Christchurch Football Club who have won the senior club competition five times since 2014.

Tysha Ikenasio was training to become a full time police officer when in April she received a fulltime Black Ferns Sevens training contract. She played professionally in Japan for four seasons initially with the Tokyo Phoenix and then Ngato Blue Angels who were national sevens champions in 2019.

Carys Dallinger is a first five-eighth rising in stature in the Manawatū. She was outstanding in the Cyclones unbeaten FPC Championship campaign and carried on that momentum with strong showings for the Hurricanes in Aupiki.

Canterbury wing Grace Steinmetz has been hampered by a foot injury but has been around the squad for three years. She made her Black Ferns debut in their 19-17 victory over the New Zealand Barbarians in November, 2020, but she is yet to make her Test debut.

The Rugby World Cup starts in 92 days.

The Black Ferns trial kicks off at 7.05pm on Friday at Navigation Homes Stadium. Tickets are available here or you can watch live on Sky Sport.

The teams are:

Rawata: Eloise Blackwell, Chelsea Bremner, Ruahei Demant, Amy du Plessis, Victoria Edmonds, Maia Joseph, Tanya Kalounivale, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Krystal Murray, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Georgia Ponsonby, Kendra Reynolds, Chelsea Semple, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, Pia Tapsell, Steph Te Ohaere-Fox, Kelsey Teneti, Hazel Tubic, Ruby Tui, Chryss Viliko, Renee Wickliffe.

Ngalingali: Lucy Anderson, Alana Bremner, Kendra Cocksedge, Luka Connor, Carys Dallinger, Natalie Delamere, Les Elder, Di Hiini, Carla Hohepa, Renee Holmes, Tysha Ikenasio, Tafito Lafaele, Patricia Maliepo, Charmaine McMenamin, Angel Mulu, Jackie Patea-Fereti, Leilani Perese, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Amy Rule, Charmaine Smith, Grace Steinmetz, Monica Tagoai, Janna Vaughan, Kelsie Wills

Players unavailable for selection include Pip Love, Grace Brooker, Ariana Bayler, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Ayesha Leti-I’iga and Iritana Hohaia.

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