Black Ferns Squad named for end of year Tests

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The Black Ferns team is (Age/Super Club/Province/Test caps):

Loosehead Props
Kate Henwood (34, Chiefs Manawa, Bay of Plenty, 2)
Krystal Murray (30, Hurricanes Poua, Northland, 10)
Chryss Viliko (20, Blues, Auckland, new cap)

Georgia Ponsonby (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 16)
Luka Connor (26, Chiefs Manawa, Bay of Plenty, 16)
Natalie Delamere (26, Matatū, Bay of Plenty, 3)

Tighthead Props
Amy Rule (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 16)
Sophie Fisher (24, Blues, Auckland, new cap)
Tanya Kalounivale (24, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, 8)

Charmaine Smith (31, Chiefs Manawa, Northland, 27)
Chelsea Bremner (28, Chiefs Manawa, Canterbury, 15)
Maiakawanakaulani Roos (22, Blues, Auckland, 17)

Loose Forwards
Alana Bremner (26, Matatū, Canterbury, 15)
Kennedy Simon (26, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, 16) – Co-Captain
Layla Sae (22, Hurricanes Poua, Manawatū, new cap)
Liana Mikaele Tu'u (21, Blues, Auckland, 14)
Lucy Jenkins (22, Matatū, Canterbury, 2)

Ariana Bayler (26, Blues, Waikato, 7)
Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (31, Chiefs Manawa, Counties Manukau, 15)
Iritana Hohaia (23, Hurricanes Poua, Taranaki, 3)

First Five-Eighths
Rosie Kelly (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 3)
Ruahei Demant (28, Blues, Auckland, 29) – Co-Captain

Amy du Plessis (24, Matatū, Canterbury, 10)
Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai'i (Sylvia) Brunt (19, Blues, Auckland, 9)
Patricia Maliepo (20, Blues, Auckland, 3)

Outside Backs
Katelyn Vahaakolo (23, Blues, Auckland, 2)
Martha Mataele (24, Matatū, Canterbury, new cap)
Mererangi Paul (24, Chiefs Manawa, Counties Manukau, 2)
Renee Holmes (23, Matatū, Waikato, 13)
Ruby Tui (31, Counties Manukau, 10)

Unavailable for selection due to injury: Ayesha Leti-I'iga (knee), Awhina Tangen Wainohu (neck), Charmaine McMenamin (knee), Santo Taumata (knee).

Following stand out performances in the Farah Palmer Cup (FPC), presented by Bunnings Warehouse, form has been rewarded with the selection of the 30-player squad.

With a focus on continuing to build depth within the Black Ferns squad, Manawatū Cyclone’s loose forward Layla Sae, Canterbury wing Martha Mataele, and the Auckland Storm duo of loosehead prop Chryss Viliko and tighthead prop Sophie Fisher, have been selected in the Black Ferns playing squad for the first time.

Mataele has been illusive for Canterbury on the wing and has made a strong impression on the Black Ferns coaching group. Energetic loose forward, Sae has been a consistent performer for Manawatū after returning from injury. Mobile and youthful Viliko tops off her season alongside Auckland Storm teammate Fisher, who has worked at her craft and has been rewarded with a place in the squad.

“It has been a very tough selection for our coaching group, which demonstrates the growth in our women’s game and a reflection our depth is certainly building. Our new players have really stood out in several important behaviours we value. All of which we have been looking for in this year’s Farah Palmer Cup,” said Black Ferns Director of Rugby Bunting.

“It is an exciting opportunity for them to come on this journey and look to continue their growth both on and off the field. The future of our internal competition is exciting to see."

The Black Ferns will welcome back tenacious lock Charmaine Smith after capping off an exceptional year with the Northland Kauri in their domestic campaign. Smith will return to the Black Ferns squad for the first time since 2019.

“Charmaine has been inspirational in her return to the game. The perseverance and work-ethic she demonstrates is outstanding both on and off the field. We are thrilled to have her back in our Black Ferns environment, and we are excited to see what impact she will have,” said Bunting.

In addition to Smith, Auckland midfielder Patricia Maliepo returns from injury, Bay of Plenty hooker Natalie Delamere and Waikato halfback Ariana Bayler earn selection for the first time this year while Counties Manukau winger Ruby Tui returns to international duties following her sabbatical.

The Black Ferns will play their first game on home soil for the 2023 season, when they take on the Wallaroos at FMG Stadium, Waikato. The O’Reilly Cup, presented by Ryman Healthcare will be the Black Ferns’ final fixture before embarking on the inaugural WXV1 tournament.

“We are looking forward to the upcoming months. To have the opportunity for our whānau and fans to see the team in action is special. We are excited about the challenge that lies ahead, the importance of building our foundations for the future and to have that here in Aotearoa will be precious for us. The way the country got behind our Black Ferns last year, and again have done so with the Football Ferns this year, it is special. And we are looking forward to seeing that support again,” Bunting said.

All matches of the O’Reilly Cup, presented by Ryman Healthcare and WXV1 will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.

Schedule (New Zealand times and dates listed)
O’Reilly Cup, presented by Ryman Healthcare:
Black Ferns vs Australia, 50 – 0, BRISBANE
Black Ferns vs Australia, Saturday 30 September, 4.35pm, FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON

Black Ferns v France, Saturday 21 October, 7.00pm, Sky Stadium, WELLINGTON
Black Ferns v Wales, Saturday 28 October, 4.00pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
Black Ferns v England, Saturday 4 November, 7.00pm, Go Media Stadium, AUCKLAND

Chryss Viliko Bio:
Chryss Viliko is a prop to watch with a bright future. After fighting her way back from a serious knee injury, she is on a mission to make up for lost time. The mobile young prop has been part of the Auckland Storm Farah Palmer Cup squad since 2019 and plays club rugby for Marist. In 2021, Viliko was welcomed into the Blues squad for the inaugural Sky Super Rugby Aupiki competition, however debuted the following year. Chryss attended the Black Ferns trials in 2022, where she caught the eye of Black Ferns selectors.

Martha Mataele Bio:
Of Tongan heritage, Martha Mataele was born in Auckland and raised in Christchurch. The former Villa Maria College student, switch to Christchurch Girls’ High School in 2017 to pursue more opportunities in rugby. Fast forward to 2021, Mataele debuted for Canterbury in the Farah Palmer Cup, the following year Mataele debuted for Matatū. After an electrifying 2022 campaign for Canterbury the winger, this year laced up the boots alongside her sister Atlanta Lolohea for Matatū, winning Aupiki together. Once again Mataele was a stand-out for Canterbury and had turned the heads of the Black Ferns selectors.

Layla Sae Bio:
Layla Sae, the energetic, abrasive and athletic loose forward, has been a standout for the Hurricanes Poua in Super Rugby Aupiki. The 21-year-old has continued to impress selectors across Farah Palmer Cup season, for the Manawatū Cyclones. The 21-year-old has type 1 diabetes, an ailment from which she’s suffered since she was 4.

Sophie Fisher Bio:
Sophie Fisher, also known as ‘Big Red,’ is one of the most versatile props in women’s rugby. With the ability to slot a conversion from 50+ metres, she isn’t shy to step up to the kicking tee when needed. Sophie was a late call-up to the nib Blues Aupiki squad in 2022, joining the team in their bubble down in Taupo. After a strong season for the Auckland Storm in 2022, Sophie became a regular player for the Blues Super Rugby Aupiki team, where she caught the eyes of Black Ferns selectors. Having been involved with the Auckland Hub, Fisher has gone on to be a prominent member of the Farah Palmer Cup champion Auckland Storm this year.


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