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Wallaroos make some changes as they plot upset win over Black Ferns

By Finn Morton
Wallaroos players in the players tunnel before running out to play the 2024 Pacific Four Series match between Australia Wallaroos and USA at AAMI Park on May 17, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Coach Jo Yapp has made four changes to the starting side that lost to USA last week as Australia prepares to take on arch-rivals New Zealand this weekend with their WXV1 hopes on the line.

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The Wallaroos have started their new era under coach Yapp with two defeats from as many starts. Following a convincing defeat to eventual Pacific Four Series champions Canada, the Aussies couldn’t hold onto their half-time lead against USA.

Australia will need to beat traditional rivals New Zealand for the first time, with a winning bonus point as well, to book their play at WXV1 in October. If the women in gold fail to do that, then they will miss out on the prestigious event.

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Coach Yapp has named a relatively settled side for the decisive Black Ferns fixtures with Atasi Lafai, Leilani Nathan and Cecilia Smith the three personnel changes to the run-on team. Captain Michaela Leonard has also shifted from tighthead to loosehead lock.

“While the first two results against Canada and USA have not been what we were after, the team has come together well and have shown some good learnings and progressions,” coach Jo Yapp said in a statement.

“We’ve had a really good week of training in Auckland and I am excited to see how the team performs against the Black Ferns.

“Ash Marsters is unfortunately unavailable through injury.”

NSW Waratahs props Brianna Hoy and Eva Karpani have retained their spots in the starting side where they’ll be joined by 12-cap hooker Tania Naden.

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Captain Leonard is set for a career milestone this weekend after being named to play her 25th Test. The Western Force lock will partner Atasi Lafai in the middle row, while Siokapesi Plau, Leilani Nathan and Piper Duck complete the forwards.

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Nathan comes into the First XV at openside flanker following an injury to last weekend’s starter Ashley Marsters who has suffered an ankle injury.

Samantha Wood partners experienced flyhalf Arabella McKenzie in the halves once again, but they’ll have a new face outside them compared to the match against USA with Cecila Smith set to wear the No. 12 jumper.

Smith will partner Waratahs centre Georgina Friedrichs in the midfield.

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It’s an all-NSW Waratahs outside backs trio, too, with Desiree Miller named to start on the left wing and Maya Stewart on the right. 17-year-old Caitlyn Halse retain her spot at fullback after debuting for the Wallaroos last week.

Kaitlyn Leaney and Trilleen Pomare will both look to provide impact off the bench against the New Zealanders after dropping out of the starting side.

This Trans-Tasman blockbuster at North Harbour Stadium will kick-off at 12:05 pm AEST / 2:05 pm NZT. Fans can watch the Pacific Four Series clash live and free on RugbyPass TV.

Wallaroos team to take on Black Ferns

  1. Brianna Hoy
  2. Tania Naden
  3. Eva Karpani
  4. Michaela Leonard (c)
  5. Atasi Lafai
  6. Siokapesi Palu
  7. 7. Leilani Nathan
  8. Piper Duck
  9. Samantha Wood
  10. Arabella McKenzie
  11. Desiree Miller
  12. Cecila Smith
  13. Georgina Friedrichs
  14. Maya Stewart
  15. Caitlyn Halse

Replacements

  1. Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke
  2. Sally Fuesaina
  3. Bridie O’Gorman
  4. Kaitlyn Leaney
  5. Tabua Tuinakauvadra
  6. Layne Morgan
  7. Trilleen Pomare
  8. Faitala Moleka

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