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Roos to captain Black Ferns against USA

Black Ferns lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos will lead the Black Ferns in their final Test match of the Pacific Four Series when they face USA at TD Place in Ottawa on Friday afternoon, 4.00pm (CEDT), Saturday morning 8.00am (NZT).

An exciting selection changes have been made to the twenty-three, with Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting and his assistants demonstrating the depth of talent within the squad.

The team is;
1. Esther Faiaoga-Tilo
2. Grace Gago

3. Amy Rule (14)
4. Joanah Ngan-Woo (18)
5. Maiakawanakaulani Roos (16) (Captain)
6. Lucy Jenkins (1)
7. Kendra Reynolds (11)
8. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u (13)
9. Iritana Hohaia (2)
10. Rosie Kelly (2)
11. Grace Steinmetz (1)
12. Grace Brooker (3)
13. Amy du Plessis (9)
14. Kelsey Teneti (2)
15. Tenika Willison (1)

16. Georgia Ponsonby (15)
17. Phillipa Love (26)
18. Tanya Kalounivale (8)
19. Chelsea Bremner (14)
20. Kennedy Simon (15)
21. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (14)
22. Ruahei Demant (28)
23. Renee Holmes (12)

*Denotes Black Ferns debut.

Roos will become the youngest player to captain the Black Ferns at the age 21. The in-form Auckland Storm lock has been awarded the captaincy, with Black Ferns Co-Captains Ruahei Demant Kennedy Simon named on the bench to allow for the continued growth of the Black Ferns squad.

Bunting said that Roos has been outstanding leading by example since the commencement of this campaign.

“Throughout my time in the Black Ferns, Maia has been exceptional, a true professional both on and off the field and her presence is widely felt. A key member of our leadership group now, her daily habits and actions transition into consistent performance. She is a good human and is always looking out to help others. We have great confidence in her captaining the Black Ferns on Friday.”

In other changes, Waikato loosehead prop Esther Faiaoga-Tilo and Counties Manukau hooker Grace Gago will start on debut for the Black Ferns, alongside Canterbury tighthead Amy Rule.

Joanah Ngan-Woo returns to join Roos as the starting locking duo. Following an impressive debut Canterbury’s Lucy Jenkins and Bay of Plenty loose forward Kendra Reynolds will start at six and seven respectively, while the formidable Liana Mikaele-Tu’u once again starts at number eight.

In the backs, Taranaki’s Iritana Hohaia and Canterbury’s Rosie Kelly earn their first start at nine and ten respectively. Midfielder Grace Brooker makes her long awaited return to the Black Ferns jersey, starting alongside last weekend’s player of the match Amy du Plessis. A talented back three of Grace Steinmetz, Kelsey Teneti and Tenika Willison will round out the starting fifteen.

A powerful front row of hooker Georgia Ponsonby, props Phillipa Love and Tanya Kalounivale will be an influential off the bench. While lock Chelsea Bremner and diligent loose forward Kennedy Simon will inject plenty of energy. In the backs, there is no shortage of experience with a talented trio of Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Ruahei Demant and Renee Holmes set tol be a force off the bench.

Bunting said that it is important to continue to grow the depth within the squad.

“As a team it is important, we continue to build our depth and our game foundations. I’m really proud of the growth in our group and after a tough travel week how our ladies fronted and responded to challenges, there is still a lot we can build on, good things take time.”

“We are looking forward to seeing our new Black Ferns take lead in this Test, we have faith in all our squad, all we expect is effort which I know we will see and always being intentional about enjoying these special moments.”

Bunting commended Faiaoga-Tilo and Gago for their work ethic.

“Esther transitioned to the front row earlier this year and has flourished in the role. While Grace, had a remarkable season for the Blues during Sky Super Rugby Aupiki. Each have continued to grind away, supporting the team through the last two tests, while continuing to learn and develop. Now it’s time to let them loose. It will be a special moment for them both, their whānau and credit for their persistence and drive.”

Key Facts:

  • This will be the 14th Test between the Black Ferns and USA.
  • The Black Ferns last played USA was in Whangārei in 2022, the Black Ferns won 50 – 6
  • Maiakawanakaulani Roos will become the youngest player to captain the Black Ferns.
  • Amy Rule, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu and Chelsea Bremner are in-line to play their 15th Test for the Black Ferns.

Maiakawanakaulani Roos Bio:
Born: 27.07.01
Position: Lock
Auckland youngster Maia Roos has quickly risen through the rugby ranks, debuting for the Auckland Storm in 2019 and forming a strong partnership in the middle row with Eloise Blackwell.
Roos was Head Girl at Tamaki College; she played two matches for the NZ Barbarians in 2020 and was part of the inaugural Blues women’s team.
Roos made her Test debut against England in Northampton in November 2021 and was a member of the Black Ferns Rugby World Cup 2021 winning squad.

Esther Faiaoga-Tilo Bio:
Born: 26 September 1994
Position: Prop
Esther made the transition into the front row this season with the Blues following her inaugural season with Hurricanes Poua. Esther was a prominent feature of the Blues forward pack this year and impressed Black Ferns coaches. The mother of one, was called into the Black Ferns squad as injury cover.

Grace Gago Bio:
Born: 5 May 1998
Position: Hooker
Grace Gago is a promising, hard-working hooker out of Counties Manukau. After a stint on the side-line with injury Gago produced a strong Bunnings Warehouse Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) season for the Counties Manukau Heat and earnt selection in the nib Blues Sky Super Rugby Aupiki squad. Gago debuted for the nib Blues against Matatū earlier this year.

Schedule (New Zealand times and dates listed)
Pacific Four Series:
Black Ferns vs Australia, Result: 50 – 0 (win)
Black Ferns vs Canada, Result: 52 – 21 (win)
Blacks Ferns vs USA, Saturday 15 July, 8.00am, TD Place Stadium, OTTAWA

O’Reilly Cup:
Black Ferns vs Australia, Result: 50 – 0 (win)
Black Ferns vs Australia, Saturday 30 September, 4.35pm, FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON

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