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Black Fern Kaipo Olsen-Baker hoping history repeats against Wallaroos

By Adam Julian
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 11: Kaipo Olsen-Baker of New Zealand in action during the 2024 Pacific Four Series match between New Zealand Black Ferns and USA at FMG Stadium Waikato on May 11, 2024 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Kaipo Olsen-Baker appeared to be a certainty for Women’s Rugby World Cup selection in 2022 until the barnstorming loose forward succumbed to a foot injury.

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On her Test debut against Australia in Tauranga, during that year’s Pacific Four Series, she showed her considerable potential by scoring a try when the score was 10-10.

Having burst 20 metres off the back of the scrum, Olsen-Baker cast aside several defenders to complete an electrifying score in torrential rain.

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“To this day I think about that try and go, ‘Wow’. I’d never played in weather like that before. I was drenched, my clothes making me even heavier than I am,” Olsen-Baker laughed.

“I don’t think too much when I play. I observe what’s in front of me and react instinctively. I wouldn’t have scored that try without the support of my teammates.

“They allowed me to play with confidence.”

The Black Ferns won the match 23-10 with Olsen-Baker named player of the match. It was the first of a dozen victories for the team in the calendar year of 2022.

In May, Olsen-Baker was back to torment Australia – 27 carries and nine tackles were part of her powerhouse contribution to a 67-19 win over the Wallaroos to conclude the Pacific Four Series.

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“Kaipo Olsen-Baker’s stocks surely surged as she started at No.8,” the New Zealand Hearld acclaimed. “Olsen-Baker dominated the game through the middle and was a force off the back of attacking scrums, scoring the opening try of the game and setting up others.”

“That was a special Test because of the growing connection between the girls throughout Pac-Four, but also my family drove eight hours from Gisborne to be in the stands for the game which is really emotional,” Olsen-Baker said.

“Australia is a really good side. They’ve got attacking threats all over the park. We expect them to come out fizzing this Sunday.”

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The Wallaroos host the Black Ferns in a one-off Laurie O’Reilly Cup Test in Ballymore, Brisbane. Australia thrashed Fijiana 64-5 at Allianz Stadium last Saturday with Desiree Miller crossing for four tries to become the first Wallaroo since Ruan Sims against South Africa in 2006 to accomplish that feat.

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The Black Ferns have never lost in 26 internationals against Australia but are seeking more consistent ruthlessness.

The Pacific Four Series didn’t yield the expected silverware after the shock 22-19 loss to Canada in Christchurch. Olsen-Baker came off the replacements’ bench that evening and made 16 determined carries in defeat.

“That was a very tough game that forced us back to the drawing board and forced us to address when we needed to improve,” Olsen-Baker said.

“The coaches told us to play more freely, see the space and go for it whether that be kicking, passing or running. We needed to better nail our basics and set pieces too.

“It’s an unusual position being on the sidelines and not being able to make an impact. You see things you think you can improve, and the pressure builds. When I got on, I just wanted to bring it.”

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Olsen-Baker certainly brought it in 2023. Following a solid Super Rugby Aupiki campaign for the Hurricanes Poua, she was imperious for Manawat? who beat every team en route to the Farah Palmer Cup final, which they narrowly lost to Northland.

Olsen-Baker was nominated for FPC Player of the Year and topped the charts for most carries (113), most defenders beaten (69) and most offloads (26).

Seeking a “different challenge” and “new environment” she shifted to Matat? ahead of this year’s Super Rugby Aupiki.

Olsen-Baker ranked in the top 10 for carries (59), defenders beaten (19), metres gained (286) and offloads (9) as she stormed her way back into the Black Ferns set-up. She duly returned to Test rugby in the 57-5 drubbing of USA in May.

Olsen-Baker initially burst onto the scene in 2019 making the Manawatu Cyclones out of Manakura, the current national secondary schools girls champions.

Her family hails from Rangitukia, north of Tikitiki on the East Coast. Olsen-Baker believes she’s related to rugby royalty.

“I think I’m a distant relation to George Nepia,” she said. “Everyone says that up the Coast but I’m pretty sure it’s legit. The park, the church, the school. It’s special, the whole George Nepia thing. I know he means a lot.”

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Wonton 3 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

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Nick 4 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

15 Go to comments
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