Four-time champions New Zealand have named a 51-strong training squad as they step up preparations for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland from 9-26 August.

The Black Ferns, who won the showpiece event from 1998-2010, will be part of a regional training programme designed to identify and develop the best players in the country.

The squad includes a number of New Zealand’s sevens squad who won the Olympic silver medal at Rio 2016 and the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Dubai, including Sarah Goss, Kelly Brazier (pictured), Portia Woodman and Tyla Nathan-Wong.

Brazier is one of a number of players in the squad with multiple WRWC winners’ medals to their names, the others including Fiao’o Fa’amausili, Linda Itunu, Emma Jensen and World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year 2015 Kendra Cocksedge.

“We’ll be making World Cup selections from this wider training group,” explained coach Glenn Moore.

Talent pool widening

“With an Olympic medal-winning sevens team and a growing provincial tournament there’s a lot of talent out there and the number of women with the black jersey in their sights is on the rise. 

“We want to make sure we take the strongest squad possible to the World Cup.”

The Black Ferns went unbeaten in their 2016 campaign, beating Australia twice before heading to Europe and returning home with the scalps of Ireland, Canada and world champions England.

Trials will begin in mid-May with a home series in June due to be announced in the coming weeks.

New Zealand have been drawn in Pool A for WRWC 2017 with 2014 runners-up Canada, Wales and tournament debutants Hong Kong.

New Zealand training squad: Eloise Blackwell, Fiao'o Fa’amausili, Charlene Gubb, Aldora Itunu, Linda Itunu, Emma Jensen, Charmaine McMenamin, Aleisha Nelson, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Kiritapu Demant, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Luka Connor, Kelly Brazier, Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox, Kendra Cocksedge, Jessie Hansen, Pip Love, Justine Lavea, Rawinia Everitt, Aotearoa (Katie) Mata'u, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Aroha Savage, Renee Wickliffe, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Arihana Marino, Sharnita Woodman, Badin-Lee Munro-Smith, Hazel Tubic, Portia Woodman, Kristina Sue, Janna Vaughan, Sarah Goss, Selica Winiata, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Crystal Mayes, Becky Wood, Chelsea Alley, Charmaine Smith, Emma Iverson, Angie Sisifa, Greer Muir, Ariana Bayler, Sosoli Talawadua, Toka Natua, Carla Hohepa, Honey Hireme, Lesley Ketu, Stacey Waaka, Jackie Fereti, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Ayesha Leti-Liga