Chryss Viliko pumped for Black Ferns start

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Chryss Viliko is making her first start as a loosehead prop by replacing Kate Henwood, who is injured.

On the bench, prop Aldora Itunu is set to make her return to Test play for the first time since 2021.

Viliko said it was unfortunate for Henwood, but it was an opportunity, and she was grateful to be part of the Black Ferns and wear the black jersey.

"It's everyone's dream, and it's been mine. I'm so excited."

It was special that she would play alongside Itunu because they have played together since Viliko first played for Auckland in 2019.

"I've learned a lot from Aldora and the other 09 leaders. It's hard to explain, but Aldora is a special human. Her presence is felt on and off the field. I call her Beyonce.

"I know when she puts on that jersey she will definitely make an impact and our opposition will feel that."

Having been a member of the World Cup-winning team in Ireland in 2017, Itunu said a lot had changed since then, especially in the team environment and management structure.

"There is the same worth, meaning mana, behind the jersey, but everyone here has added to the jersey. It's exciting where the team is now and for the future."

Some Canada players will be familiar with Itunu as she scored a hat-trick of tries against them in pool play in 2017.

Itunu said it had been quite the journey for her since deciding to start a family.

"When I was having my baby, rugby was my life. I was nervous because I didn't know what life would be like without rugby.

"But once I had my boy, it's like a new fire in you. I want my boy to be part of my life."

There were hard conversations, hard work, tears and mom guilt when organising babysitters so she could train and do the things to get where she was today.

Her son will be in the stand when she plays, and she said that not many kids would say they watched their mother play for their country.

"But there're a lot of women that have done this before me, and even with me, as you could during Aupiki. It's just a new fire and purpose, and hopefully one day he'll be proud of men."

When included in the side for Sunday, she was surprised and organised a meeting with coach Allan Bunce to ensure there was no miscommunication, but he confirmed they had selected her and she was left speechless.

"But, I'm ready to get this opportunity and play alongside the girls and for the jersey."        



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