Black Ferns XV to provide opportunity for emerging talent

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The Black Ferns XV has been formed by New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to foster the professional growth of players, coaches and management on the international stage and provide a high-performance pathway to the Black Ferns.

The Black Ferns XV’s squad will be named in mid-September, ahead of their fixture against Samoa onSaturday September 23 at Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe at 4.35pm. The fixture will be broadcast live on Sky Sport as part of a double header including the Bunnings NPC fixture between Counties Manukau and Manawatū at 2.05pm.

Matatū’s Head of Rugby Whitney Hansen will lead the Black Ferns XV, with Blues Assistant Coach, former Black Fern Linda Itunu and former Wallaroos Assistant Coach Peter Breen.

Black Ferns XV Head Coach Hansen said she was looking forward to the opportunity.

“We have a talented pool of athletes in New Zealand, and this offers the next generation of aspiring athletes the opportunity to take their first or next step, which is hugely exciting. While the development of our aspiring players is an important focus, this team will also provide the chance for former Black Ferns who are returning to the game, a chance to push for a recall and showcase their talent. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and excited to work alongside an exceptional management group and what will be an impressive playing group.”

NZR Women’s High Performance Manager Hannah Porter said the Black Ferns XV was an important part of the high-performance pathway.

“We know for the continued success of our Black Ferns team we need to ensure we are developing and exposing a wider group of players to high-performance environments. The inclusion of the Black Ferns XV in our high-performance pathway, provides aspiring players and coaches the opportunity for continued growth, experience, and a chance to demonstrate their craft.

“We have an abundance of talent coming through the Bunnings Farah Palmer Cup competition and the Black Ferns XV will allow us to capture a wider group of this talent, enhance and develop it, which will be important as we build towards the 2025 Rugby World Cup.”

Porter said Hansen would be an asset to the side and was supported by a talented coaching group.

“We are excited to be able to have Whitney lead the Black Ferns XV. She holds a great amount of experience, has a fantastic rapport with the players. It has long been an ambition for her to grow as a leader of a programme and we are looking forward to continuing to support her in that.

“With the inclusion of Linda and Peter, it makes for an exciting coaching group. Linda was a highly regarded player, who is quickly developing into a highly respected coach in her own right. Peter has returned to New Zealand from Australia, where he was involved with the Wallaroos and Melbourne Storm.”

Coaching Bios:

Whitney Hansen

Whitney Hansen’s coaching career has gone from strength to strength. Hansen started her coaching career at Canterbury University and has been Assistant Coach for Canterbury at Bunnings Farah Palmer Cup and Matatū in Super Rugby Aupiki. Following her Rugby World Cup success with the Black Ferns last year, Hansen was appointed as Matatū’s Head of Rugby.

Linda Itunu

Linda Itunu was a three-time World Cup winner with the Black Ferns, who played 38 tests between 2003 and 2018. In December 2020, she was named on the blindside in the World Rugby Women’s 15’s Team of the Decade (2010-19). This year she was named as Assistant Coach of the Blues for Sky Super Rugby Aupiki. Not only a well-regarded rugby player, and coach, Itunu is also a Police Constable.

Peter Breen

Peter Breen, the former first-five eighth for Otago, Northland and North Otago has been involved in coaching for a number of years through his founding business Rugby Bricks. The former Wallaroos attack coach was enlisted to assist the Melbourne Storm as a kicking and skills coach over the past two year prior to returning to New Zealand.


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