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Auckland’s Fiao’o Fa’amausili has been chosen to captain New Zealand as the Black Ferns bid to claim a fifth consecutive Women’s Rugby World Cup title.
Hooker Fa’amausili has yet to taste defeat since taking charge of the team in the autumn of 2013, leading the defending world champions to a series clean sweep against England and again in the recent International Women’s Series featuring Australia, Canada and Samoa.
Rugby Sevens specialists feature strongly in head coach Brian Evans’ selection, with six of the squad that appeared in last year’s World Cup in the shortened format of the Game heading over to France.
One notable absentee is the ridiculously talented netball and Sevens convert Portia Woodman who is sidelined with an ankle injury.
All the players who featured on the recent tour of the United Kingdom, which featured a narrow win over Wales and a defeat to England, have been selected by USA Women for next month's Women's Rugby World Cup.
The squad contains a number of players with Women's Rugby World Cup experience, including Sharon Blaney, Stacey Bridges (reserve), Jamie Burke, Emilie Bydwell, Lynelle Kugler, Nathalie Marchino, Vanesha McGee, Naima Reddick, Hannah Stolba, and Kittery Wagner.
Winger McGee will head to France full of confidence after scoring all her side's tries on tour. Kate Daley and Shaina Turley, who shared the leadership duties in the matches against England and Wales, can look forward to their first WRWC.
Burke, who also played in WRWC 2006, will look to extend her cap total as the most-capped Eagle. The prop earned her 46th career cap in the friendly against England on Sunday.
“It has taken three years to get to this point and I am very excited about the squad,” said head coach Pete Steinberg about his squad selection. “A lot of work has been put in to get us to where we are now.
“With only 26 players and five games in just over two weeks, the ability to play multiple positions was a factor in the selections.”
The representing players will now attempt to overcome a tough pool draw to accomplish the team motto: “Final in ‘14” – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1994.
“We have an extremely tough pool,” Steinberg said. “We have Ireland and New Zealand, who could both claim to be a top team along with ourselves. However, we are excited for the challenge.”
Ireland head coach Phillip Doyle has chosen an even split of 13 forwards and 13 backs for what will be his last tournament in charge of the team.
The 26-strong panel, led by Fiona Coghlan, contains just one new cap with Sharon Lynch named in the forwards.
Scrum half Amy Davis, a regular in the squad during the Six Nations, has been ruled out through injury which means a recall for the experienced Tania Rosser who played at WRWC 2010 in England.
Commenting on the selection, Doyle said: "We have just come off the back of three weekends of intensive training and unfortunately we had to cut the squad to just 26 players which has been difficult. Everybody applied themselves brilliantly and I would like to congratulate all for their involvement.
"Women's rugby is at an all-time high in Ireland and with that comes great expectation. We are well placed for the tournament and are all looking forward to heading to France and getting started."