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Black Ferns named to take on the Wallaroos

Black Ferns coaches Allan Bunting, Steve Jackson, Mike Delany and Tony Christie have named an in-form 23 to take on the Wallaroos in the O’Reilly Cup, presented by Ryman Healthcare, this Saturday afternoon (4.35pm), in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), at FMG Stadium Waikato.

This will be the Black Ferns’ first Test on home soil this year, and their final fixture before embarking on the inaugural WXV1 Tournament.

Black Ferns team is:
1. Krystal Murray (10)
2. Georgia Ponsonby (16)
3. Amy Rule (16)
4. Maiakawanakaulani Roos (17)
5. Charmaine Smith (27)
6. Alana Bremner (15)
7. Kennedy Simon (16) (Co-Captain)
8. Liana Mikaele Tu’u (14)
9. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (15)
10. Ruahei Demant (29) (Co-Captain)
11. Katelyn Vahaakolo (2)
12. Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt (9)
13. Amy du Plessis (10)
14. Mererangi Paul (2)
15. Patricia Maliepo (3)

  1. Luka Connor (16)
    17. Chryss Viliko*
  2. Tanya Kalounivale (8)
  3. Lucy Jenkins (2)
    20. Layla Sae*
  4. Iritana Hohaia (3)
  5. Rosie Kelly (3)
    23. Martha Mataele*

*Denotes Black Ferns debutant

Unavailable for selection due to injury: Renee Holmes (shoulder)

Following a two-week preparation window, an exciting mix of experience and youth has been selected to light up FMG Stadium Waikato in front of passionate Black Ferns Fans (BFFs).

With 27 caps to her name, tenacious Northland lock Charmaine Smith returns for the first time since 2019. In-form Auckland Storm utility back Patricia Maliepo will join Smith in the starting fifteen, in her first start of the 2023 season.

Three hopeful debutants will be eager to take the field and inject plenty of energy following successful provincial campaigns; mobile Auckland loosehead prop Chryss Viliko, notable Manawatū loose forward Layla Sae, and illusive Canterbury winger Martha Mataele.

A powerful front row has been selected with Canterbury duo of hooker Georgia Ponsonby and tighthead prop Amy Rule, packing down with Northland’s loosehead prop Krystal Murray in just her second Test start. Maiakawanakaulani Roos will combine with Smith at lock to complete the tight five. Loose forward trio of Alana Bremner, Kennedy Simon and Liana Mikaele Tu’u will round out an experienced forward pack.

Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu and Ruahei Demant will direct play at nine and ten, while the dominant midfield combination of Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt and Amy du Plessis will start at 12 and 13. A youthful back three will see Katelyn Vahaakolo on the left wing, Mererangi Paul on the right wing and Maliepo at fullback.

Joining the debutants on the reserves bench will be Bay of Plenty hooker Luka Connor, Waikato’s tighthead prop Tanya Kalounivale, Canterbury loose forward Lucy Jenkins and teammate first five-eighth Rosie Kelly, alongside Taranaki halfback Iritana Hohaia.

Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting said the Black Ferns are acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

“We know that the Wallaroos will have progressed since we faced them in Brisbane during the opening game of the Pacific Four Series. We are aware of the challenge they provide, our wāhine have been working hard to be well prepared and ready for this weekend.”

“It has been a very tough selection, it’s great to be giving our new Black Ferns an opportunity that they have worked very hard for and reflects the growth in our team. We are looking forward to this weekend here in Hamilton, we will see where we are at this stage of our journey.”

“It is very exciting for our two returners, Charmaine and Patricia, to pull on the black jersey again. This is a true reflection of their commitment and mahi. For our debutants, they have been impressive, and this is an opportunity to take that next step. We are excited to see them enjoy the moment here at home in front of whānau,” said Bunting.

Key notes:

Black Ferns’ first Test in Hamilton since 2013.
– This will be the third Black Ferns Test to be held in Hamilton.
– O’Reilly Cup is named in honour of Laurie O’Reilly, the first Black Ferns coach and New Zealand lawyer who was a major advocate of the women’s game.
– This will be the 14th time the O’Reilly Cup will be contested and the first time it will be contested in Hamilton.
– The Black Ferns and Wallaroos first played for the Cup in 1994. The Black Ferns won 37-0 in Sydney.

Schedule (New Zealand times and dates listed)

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

Black Ferns v France, Saturday 21 October, 7.00pm, Sky Stadium, WELLINGTON
Black Ferns v Wales, Saturday 28 October, 4.00pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
Black Ferns v England, Saturday 4 November, 7.00pm, Go Media Stadium, AUCKLAND

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