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Black Ferns name experimental side for first Wallaroos skirmish

By Sam Smith
Charmaine McMenamin. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

After claiming the Pacific Four Series on home soil in June, the Black Ferns are eyeing the defence of the O’Reilly Cup as they build towards the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

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NZ will take on Australia in Christchurch on Saturday and coaches Wayne Smith, Wes Clarke and Whitney Hansen have mixed up their selection, making seven changes to the team that ran out in the 50-6 victory over the United States in June.

On the rebound from injury, loose forwards Kennedy Simon and Charmaine McMenamin have been named in the starting line-up for their first Test matches of 2022. Simon will wear the captain’s armband alongside first five-eighth Ruahei Demant who led the team during the Pacific Four Series. The Waikato loose forward was previously named Black Ferns Player of the Year in 2021 but missed June’s series with a knee injury.

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Sevens exponent Theresa Fitzpatrick, who was part of the 2017 World Cup-winning Black Ferns, will make her first appearance since 2019 and will combine with Amy du Plessis in the midfield. Her sevens teammate, Tyla Nathan-Wong, will make her debut off the bench alongside prop Awhina Tangen-Wainohu.

Black Ferns Head Coach Wayne Smith said there is real significance in defending the O’Reilly Cup in the city where Laurie O’Reilly had such an influence on the game of rugby.

“My want to get involved with the Black Ferns started as a tribute to Laurie who was a great mate and mentor of mine,” Smith said. “He inspired me to be a coach and I feel really fortunate to have had such a great relationship with him.

“Every Test match is special, but the significance of playing for this trophy in Christchurch this weekend is not lost on our team.”

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Saturday’s Test will kick off at 7:05pm NZT from Orangetheory Stadium.

Black Ferns: Renee Holmes, Ruby Tui, Amy du Plessis, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Ayesha Leti-I’iga, Ruahei Demant, Kendra Cocksedge, Charmaine McMenamin, Kennedy Simon, Alana Bremner, Chelsea Bremner, Joanah Ngan Woo, Tanya Kalounivale, Georgia Ponsonby, Pip Love. Reserves: Luke Connor, Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, Amy Rule, Tafito Lafaele, Kendra Reynolds, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’I (Sylvia) Brunt, Hazel Tubic.

– with New Zealand Rugby

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