New Zealand coach Glenn Moore has named a squad packed with experience as well as “talent and character” for the International Rugby Women’s Series with world champions England, Canada and Australia from 9-17 June.
With less than 90 days to go until Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 begins in Ireland on 9 August, the series will be a key part of all four teams’ preparations with matches in Wellington, Christchurch and Rotorua mirroring the format of the game’s showpiece event.
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Eleven of the 31 players selected were part of the Black Ferns squad at WRWC 2014 in France when New Zealand failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time, while Fiao’o Fa’amausili, Linda Itunu, Justine Lavea, Kendra Cocksedge and Kelly Brazier (pictured) have previously tasted World Cup glory in 2010 and before for the first two players.
Brazier is one of a number of players from the Black Ferns Sevens squad selected for this tournament, including captain Sarah Goss, speedster Portia Woodman and Theresa Fitzpatrick, the latter one of only two players new to the national 15s squad. The quartet have helped New Zealand top the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series standings with three wins from four events in 2016-17, but are now set to miss the last rounds in Canada and France.
“While the World Cup is the pinnacle event we have three very important home tests,” said Moore. “Players are very excited about it and the home tests are an opportunity for us to try some of the things against the same opposition we will face at World Cup, without showing too much.”
Rebecca Wood is the other newcomers to the Black Ferns squad after impressing Moore.
“She’s (Fitzpatrick) got some pace and some real skills and attributes around those positions. She’s a strong defender and she thoroughly deserves her selection. Becky is a firefighter and she has a lot of courage. She was someone we had on our radar last year. She’s fairly new to the game, but leading up to this her talent and character really stood out.
“There’s a lot of character here and a lot of people here with really good work ethic and a desire to do well.
“We have had a vision for how we want to play the game, and for the last couple of years we have been progressively building that. We’re looking to advance year-on-year and I think we’ve made good strides there.”
The wider World Cup training squad includes a further seven players who will continue to train in regional hubs in Charlene Gubb, Jessie Hansen, Carla Hohepa, Emma Jensen, Aotearoa Mata’u, Tyla Nathan-Wong and Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox.
The Black Ferns will face 2014 runners-up Canada, debutants Hong Kong and Wales in Pool A at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017, which takes place from 9-26 August in Dublin and Belfast.
New Zealand squad: Eloise Blackwell, Rawinia Everitt, Fiao’o Faamausili (captain), Sara Goss, Aldora Itunu, Linda Itunu, Lesley Ketu, Justine Lavea, Pip Love, Charmaine McMenamin, Sosoli Talawadua, Rebecca Wood, Chelsea Alley, Kelly Brazier, Kendra Cocksedge, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Honey Hireme, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Kristina Sue, Hazel Tubic, Janna Vaughan, Stacey Waaka, Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata, Portia Woodman.