Deep Canterbury connection ahead of O'Reilly Cup opener in Christchurch

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That makes this weekend’s Test match against Australia for the O'Reilly Cup a special occasion. 


"I first met Laurie in 1980 when I was playing for Belfast. After we played University, Laurie came and introduced himself, " Smith recalled.


"A short while later he got me involved in free coaching clinics that he was running at Lincoln, some with Jim Greenwood, one of the best coaches in the world."


"Laurie was quirky, not mainstream, a real adventurer, smart and generous with his time. 


"One year I was asked to coach Town against City which was a big deal in Canterbury at the time. I got Laurie on board as my assistant which didn't go down too well but we had a good win and had the most fun week.


"It's emotional being involved in a Test match with a lot of personal history."


Openside flanker Kennedy Simon and reserve utility back Tyla Nathan-Wong are two players who'll be expected to channel the strong emotion into execution.


Simon, the 2021 Black Ferns Player of the Year, has returned to the Waikato Farah Palmer Cup team in commanding form after 15 weeks of injury. 


"It was tough being injured but the girls stayed close and were really supportive," Simon said.



"I can't wait to play fast paced, exhilarating rugby. Australia are very good in the collisions and keep their feet in the carry so we're going to have to make our chop tackles and stay disciplined." 


Simon has been promoted to co-captain for the series, alongside first five-eighth Ruahei Demant.


"It was a big surprise. Ruahei called me and asked if I was interested. She is an awesome individual. It's very humbling," Simon said.


Tyla Nathan-Wong described Simon as a player who "leads by example."


Nathan-Wong is Black Ferns Sevens veteran keen to shrug aside the disappointment of losing to Australia at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. 


"We were quite shattered at how that went. We didn’t play our best," Nathan-Wong conceded.


"Being in fifteens has given me something else to look forward to. I love how there are more people and personalities. 


"The way we're trying to play is not that different from Sevens. We want to play on top of the opposition with lots of pace and excitement."


The Blacks Ferns have won their previous two tests in Canterbury. In 1997 at the Burnham Military Base they smashed World Champions, England 67-0. Wing Vanessa Cootes (4) and halfback Monique Hirovanaa (3) had a field day scoring seven tries between them. Wayne Smith was technical advisor to coach Daryl Suasua.


In 2017 the Black Ferns beat Australia Rugby Park 44-17. Portia Woodman and Selica Winiata each scored two tries.


The very first New Zealand Women's match organised by Laurie O'Reilly was played at Lancaster Park in Christchurch in 1989. New Zealand beat the California Grizzlies 13-7.


Saturday’s O’Reilly Cup Test kicks off at Orangetheory Stadium at 7:05pm and will be live on Sky Sport.



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