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Black Ferns name Super Rugby Aupiki MVP to debut against Canada

By Kim Ekin
The winning Matatu team during the Super Rugby Aupiki Final match between Matatu and Chiefs Manawa at FMG Stadium, on March 25, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The Black Ferns started their 2023 Pacific Four series campaign with a dominant win over the Wallaroos, notching up 50 points without leaking a single point to their trans-Tasman rivals.

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The team can expect a sterner test from their round two opponents, facing a Canadian side that fell short of third place in last year’s World Cup after a nail-biting loss to the top-ranked England side in the semi-final.

Canada themselves racked up a 50-point effort in their first match of the Pacific Four Series, claiming a 50-17 win over their neighbours, the USA.

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Anticipating a tight contest, Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting has rolled out a largely unchanged starting XV for the occasion with a refreshed front row the only difference from the Brisbane Test.

Phillipa Love and Amy Rule are promoted to the starting prop positions, both members of the World Cup final-winning XV from 2022. Joining them in the starting front row is the energetic Luka Connor, coming off a sensational Super Rugby Aupiki season where the hooker led the competition in tries.

Connor’s Chiefs Manawa front-row teammates Kate Henwood and Tanya Kalounivale, along with Hooker Georgia Ponsonby, provide impact off the bench after starting against the Wallaroos.

The bench provides a youthful impact with Super Rugby Aupiki MVP Lucy Jenkins set for her Black Ferns debut in the No 19 jersey. Coach Bunting was excited to get Jenkins’ Test career underway.

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“Lucy was a dominant player during Sky Super Rugby Aupiki,” the coach said. “She is a very driven individual and has a well-rounded skill set. After taking a bit of time off through sickness, she has come back in and continued to impress in our environment. Lucy has a bright future ahead of her and we are excited to see her play and enjoy this very special moment.”

The exhilarating starting backline that punished the Wallaroos is retained for the Ottawa Test, including young star Sylvia Brunt who scored two tries and won Player of the Match in the round one win.

“Canada is a well-organised team who were very unlucky not to knock England out of last year’s Rugby World Cup,” Bunting continued. “We will need to ensure we are a bit more patient and accurate in our game this weekend but continue to play with freedom.”

Black Ferns team to face Canada

1. Phillipa Love
2. Luka Connor
3. Amy Rule
4. Maiakawanakaulani Roos
5. Chelsea Bremner
6. Alana Bremner
7. Kennedy Simon
8. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u
9. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu
10. Ruahei Demant
11. Katelyn Vahaakolo
12. Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt
13. Amy du Plessis
14. Mererangi Paul
15. Renee Holmes

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16. Georgia Ponsonby
17. Kate Henwood
18. Tanya Kalounivale
19. Lucy Jenkins*
20. Kendra Reynolds
21. Iritana Hohaia
22. Rosie Kelly
23. Kelsey Teneti

*Denotes Black Ferns debut.

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