Four new caps and two returning players from the 2017 World Cup winning side have been named in the Black Ferns to play Canada on Friday afternoon (Saturday morning NZT) as part of the Women’s Rugby Super Series 2019.
North Harbour No.8 Pia Tapsell has been named to make her first Test start in the series opener.
Tapsell, 20, has been a standout for her province where she has established herself as the most prolific try-scorer in North Harbour women’s rugby history.
The Bay of Plenty pair of hooker Luka Connor and loose forward Karli Faneva and Counties Manukau halfback Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu have also all been named to make their Test debuts from the reserves. Olivia Ward-Duin is bracketed with Leilani Perese at this stage.
Black Ferns Head Coach Glenn Moore said the coaching team had been watching Tapsell closely for the past two years.
“She’s a very physical player and a good ball carrier and she came through strongly in the match against the Barbarians. Pia thoroughly deserves her start.”
Moore made special mention of Marino-Tauhinu, who spent time with the Black Ferns without taking the field in the past, saying she had earned her recall through hard work for her province.
Centre Carla Hohepa and prop Toka Natua will wear the black jersey for the first time since the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup final in Belfast.
Hohepa, 33, took time out to have a baby and Moore said the speedy Waikato mid-fielder/wing was back to her best form and eager to make her mark in the series.
“Carla is a very experienced player and we’ve always believed she is world class. She’s worked hard to get back in great physical shape and shown some good signs in all the lead-up games. She’s also part of our leadership group and is influential on and off the field.”
Moore said Natua – also from Waikato – had earned her selection in a highly competitive position.
“We’ve decided to go with Toka in this instance. She was the player of the World Cup Final, she’s had a year off, she’s back, and we want to see what she brings.”
The Black Ferns play Canada in their first match of the Women’s Rugby Super Series 2019, a series which also includes USA, France and England. Moore said his team last played Canada in 2017 at the World Cup and he expected them to be big, strong and fast.
“We know Canada has one of the best scrums – if not the best – scrum in the world and we know they like to be physical. They’ve certainly got pace, so we expect them to bring a lot to the game.
“We’ve recovered well from our travel and have been preparing for this for months now. Everyone can’t wait to get out there and play.”
When the two sides last clashed in 2017, the Black Ferns ran out 48-5 winners. The match will kick off at 11AM Saturday morning (NZT).
Black Ferns: 15 Selica Winiata, 14 Renee Wickliffe, 13 Carla Hohepa, 12 Chelsea Alley, 11 Ayesha Leti-I’iga, 10 Ruahei Demant, 9 Kendra Cocksedge, 8 Pia Tapsell, 7 Les Elder (c), 6 Charmaine McMenamin, 5 Charmaine Smith, 4 Eloise Blackwell, 3 Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, 2 Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, 1 Toka Natua. Reserves: 16 Luka Connor, 17 Phillipa Love, 18 Leilani Perese/Olivia Ward-Duin, 19 Karli Faneva, 20 Marcelle Parkes, 21 Arihiana Marion-Tauhinu, 22 Krysten Cottrell, 23 Alena Saili.
– Rugby New Zealand
Watch Black Ferns prop Kate Matau bulldoze her way through an unlucky defender:
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