The New Zealand Black Ferns have stepped up their preparations for Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 in England this autumn with 34 players currently attending a week-long training camp in Rotorua.
New Zealand will arrive in Guildford for the showpiece event in the Women's Game, which takes place from 20 August to 5 September, bidding to claim a fourth successive world title.
This week-long camp is the first of two trials with the second taking the form of a regional competition comprising four teams and 96 players, which will be held at Hopuhopu, outside Hamilton, over the Queen's Birthday weekend at the beginning of June.
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Black Ferns coach Brian Evans will name the 26-strong squad charged with continuing their impressive record on the Women's Rugby World Cup stage in late June. They will then assemble for a training camp in mid-July.
"The regional tournament will give us a great opportunity to look at a larger group of players prior to selecting our squad for the World Cup and I am confident that we will have a strong team and be well prepared to defend our title come August," said Evans.
Vastly experienced squad
A third of the squad currently in Rotorua were involved in the Black Ferns' most recent World Cup success at the 2006 tournament when they beat England 25-17 in the final with current captain Victoria Heighway among the try scorers.
Victoria Grant (nee Blackledge), Linda Itunu, Emma Jensen, Rebecca Mahoney (nee Hull), Diane Maliukaetau, Beth Mallard, Huriana Manuel, Casey Robertson, Melissa Ruscoe and Kimberly Smith also played in 2006.
Two other players from that victorious squad, hooker Fiao'o Faamausili and star centre Amiria Rule (nee Marsh) are unavailable to attend the camp, the latter as a result of injury.
Heighway, Grant, Itunu and Manuel were also part of the New Zealand Sevens side beaten in sudden-death extra-time by Australia in the inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens final in Dubai last year.
Four other members of that squad - the tournament's top try scorer Carla Hohepa, Justine Lavea, Teresa Te Tamaki and Renee Wickcliffe - will all be putting their hands up in Rotorua hoping to make the Women's Rugby World Cup squad.
Black Ferns training squad:
Shakira Baker (Wellington), Zoey Berry (Otago), Kelly Brazier (Otago), Olivia Coady, Kendra Cocksedge, Barbara Chittock (all Canterbury), Victoria Grant (nee Blackledge) (Auckland), Halie Hurring (Canterbury), Victoria Heighway (Auckland), Trish Hina (Auckland), Carla Hohepa (Otago), Linda Itunu, Emma Jensen, Crystal Kaua, Justine Lavea (all Auckland), Ruth McKay (Manawatu), Rebecca Mahoney (nee Hull) (Wellington), Diane Maliukaetau (Auckland), Beth Mallard (Otago), Huriana Manuel (Auckland), Amanda Murphy (Canterbury), Karina Penetito (Auckland), Casey Robertson (Canterbury), Vita Robinson (Auckland), Claire Rowat (Wellington), Melissa Ruscoe, Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox, Anika Tiplady (all Canterbury), Doris Taufateau (Auckland), Teresa Te Tamaki (Auckland), Kimberly Smith (Canterbury), Aimee Sutorius (Wellington), Shaan Waru (Hawke's Bay), Renee Wickcliffe (Auckland).
Unavailable: Aroha Savage (injured), Fiao'o Faamausili, Amiria Rule (nee Marsh) (injured), Faanati Aniseko (bereavement leave).
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