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Black Ferns name nine debutants for long-awaited 100th test

By Kim Ekin
Les Elder makes a tackle for the Black Ferns. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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Black Ferns coach Glen Moore has selected nine test debutants for the Black Ferns’ clash with England this weekend, which will mark NZ’s 100th test.

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Captain Les Elder returns for her first match in the black jersey after the birth of her first child last year and is ably supported by vice-captains and veterans Kendra Cocksedge and Eloise Blackwell.

An experienced front row with more than 70 combined caps in Pip Love, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate and Aleisha Pearl Nelson will set a strong platform at the set-piece.

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Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar explains the importance of the Autumn Nations Series.
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Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar explains the importance of the Autumn Nations Series.

In the second row, former volleyball international Kelsie Wills gets her first test cap, having debuted for the Black Ferns in their domestic series last year, and will link up with Eloise Blackwell.

Black Ferns Sevens player Dhys Faleafaga earns her first cap at number eight alongside fellow debutant Alana Bremner at blindside flanker, with Elder rounding out the loose forward trio.

Cocksedge and Ruahei Demant combine in the halves while Waikato teammates Stacey Fluhler and Chelsea Alley pair up in the midfield. There is plenty of pace on the wings with both Renee Wickliffe and Ayesha Leti-I’iga returning after missing the 2020 Black Ferns series. Renee Holmes makes her test debut from fullback.

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There are five potential debutants off the bench with teenagers Liana Mikaele-Tu’u and Patricia Maliepo, the Waikato pair of Grace Houpapa-Barrett and Ariana Bayler and Northland Captain Krystal Murray all named for their first tests.

Moore said there was a true sense of excitement within the team selected to take part in the 100th test.

“There is already a bit of spark in the group given it’s our first Test in almost two and a half years, add to that the 100th milestone and it makes for a very special occasion.”

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“There is a great rivalry between these two teams so I’m sure we can expect another great test this weekend.

“We’ve had some really good talent coming through back in New Zealand and the players we have brought into our environment have really stepped up and I think those that debut this weekend will all make an impact on the game.

“Les is an exceptional leader and is very important to this group. She leads from the front and communicates well under pressure so it is great to have her back.”

The match kicks off at 2:30pm GMT on Sunday afternoon from Exeter.

Black Ferns:

1. Pip Love (11)
2. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (29)
3. Aleisha Pearl Nelson (35)
4. Eloise Blackwell (43)
5. Kelsie Wills – debut
6. Alana Bremner – debut
7. Les Elder (18) – captain
8. Dhys Faleafaga – debut
9. Kendra Cocksedge (53)
10. Ruahei Demant (11)
11. Ayesha Leti-I’iga (9)
12. Chelsea Alley (24)
13. Stacey Fluhler (16)
14. Renee Wickliffe (41)
15. Renee Holmes – debut

16. Grace Houpapa-Barrett – debut
17. Krystal Murray – debut
18. Aldora Itunu (20)
19. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u – debut
20. Kennedy Simon (4)
21. Ariana Bayler – debut
22. Patricia Maliepo – debut
23. Grace Brooker (1)

– with New Zealand Rugby

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