Match Details: Black Ferns v Scotland, Saturday 22 October, 4:45pm NZT, Northland Events Centre, Whangārei
Watch: Live on Spark Sport and delayed on TV3 at 7pm.
Referee: Aurelie Groizeleau (France)
Assistant Referees: Clara Munarini (AR1), Kate Roache (AR2)
TMO: Chris Assmus
In the present standings New Zealand, Canada and England are the top three teams. A bonus point victory over Scotland should secure number one position unless Canada was to have a huge victory over the USA. The Black Ferns have a points’ differential 22 better than Canada.
The other way in which the Black Ferns could surrender pole position would be failing to secure maximum points (5) against Scotland and presenting both Canada and England with the opportunity to usurp them. England are a point behind New Zealand and Canada in the standings but are three ahead of the Black Ferns on points differential.
Scotland have lost their last eight internationals but have been close at this World Cup with heart-breaking losses against Wales (15-18) and Australia (12-14).
The two counties have played each other three times previously with the Black Ferns prevailing on every occasion. At the 1998 World Cup the Black Ferns won 76-0 against the then Grand Slam Champions. Tammi Wilson and Louisa Wall each scored two tries.
In the 2005 Churchill Cup in Ottawa, Canada the Black Ferns won 30-9 with wing Stephanie Broomhall (nee Mortimer) scoring twice.
A year later the Black Ferns had to work hard for their 21-0 victory in the World Cup. A tribute to Scotland’s effort that day is loose forward Donna Kennedy who played 115 tests was named player of the match.
If the Black Ferns stay top their likely quarter final opponent will be one of Australia, Wales, or USA. They will also avoid England’s side of the draw. The English have won a world record 27 Tests in a row.
Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu will become the Black Ferns 17th Test captain when she leads her country on Saturday. The Counties Manuaku halfback holds the record for most games for the Heat with 61. With 240 points she’s also a capable goal-kicker.
Marino-Tauhinu will start in the black jersey for just the second time but played for the Black Ferns Sevens way back in 2008 so has been in the national frame a long time.
Her only previous start was in a 50-6 win over the USA in Whangārei in June. She was named player of the match.
How does Marino-Tauhinu contrast with Kendra Cocksedge whose had a mortgage on the halfback position?
“I acknowledge her talent. She’s a huge part of Black Ferns history, but we play very different games. I love a bit of niggle and running rugby. Kendra has a speedy pass and kicks more. She’s very good at making the right decisions in the right parts of the field where I tend to be more intuitive,” Marino-Tauhinu answered in her official Black Ferns profile.
Black Ferns director of Rugby Wayne Smith was pleased with the 66 minutes fellow halfback Ariana Baylor produced in the 56-12 win against Wales on Sunday.
For the first time in a long time, it appears Cocksedge, who’s played 64 of the Black Ferns 111 Tests, has genuine competition for her place.
David Bowie’s Changes might be an appropriate theme song for the Black Ferns World Cup campaign thus far.
Last week there were 10 personal changes for Wales. This week seven new faces make their way into the match-day squad while Ruahei Demant, Sylvia Brunt, Kendra Reynolds, Tanya Kalounivale and Chelsea Bremner are all relegated to the bench.
The front row of Phillipa Love, Georgia Ponsonby and Amy Rule drove Canterbury to Farah Palmer Cup glory while Liana Mikaele-Tu'u will look for a big performance to provide another option in the crowded and competitive back row.
Hazel Tubic starts at ten alongside her long time Counties teammate Marino-Tauhinu. Tubic might be the best general-play kicker in New Zealand so the Black Ferns might play more territorially.
Ayesha Leti-l'iga returns from injury for her first run in three Tests and will hope to repeat the captivating form she showed earlier in the season.
Amy du Plessis and Renee Holmes started against Australia on matchday one.
Discipline in match one against Australia was good, conceding seven penalties compared to the Wallaroos 12.
Discipline retreated against Wales on Sunday, the Black Ferns on the wrong end of a 17-8 penalty count. Experienced loose forwards Charmaine McMenamin and Sarah Hirini were both yellow carded as the Black Ferns were reduced to 13 players in the second half.
Black Ferns Director of Rugby Wayne Smith wasn’t subtle when describing his frustration.
“Really disappointing. A lot of them [penalties] are avoidable. It really annoys me when I see it. You do so much work during the week from staying up, hitting low, and we go out and do that. It's disappointing because a lot of them are just stupid, avoidable penalties.”
Five times the Black Ferns were pinged at the scrum and Wales had double the number of lineouts extracting four penalties from mauls.
"We've seen bits and pieces of the game we want to play so this test is about bringing that all together for a more complete performance. We expect Scotland to be tough up front, so our attitude will need to be there right from kick off," Smith said.
Scotland could have easily won both matches at this World Cup but a combination of misfortune, opposition quality and error has consigned them to two defeats.
Scotland has a settled line-up with one enforced change from their Australia clash. Shona Campbell comes in at full-back to replace the injured Chloe Rollie, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a broken arm.
Second-row Emma Wassell will play her 60th Test since debuting against Ireland in 2014. Rachel Malcom is the top tackler at the tournament with 44 in two matches.
Scotland will fancy their chances of pestering the Black Ferns in the scrums and lineouts.
Black Ferns: 1. Phillipa Love, 2. Georgia Ponsonby, 3. Amy Rule, 4. Joanah Ngan-Woo, 5. Maiakawanakualani Roos, 6. Alanah Bremner, 7. Sarah Hirini, 8. Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, 9. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (c), 10. Hazel Tubic, 11. Ayesha Leti-I'iga, 12. Theresa Fitzpatrick, 13. Amy du Plessis, 14. Renee Wickliffe, 15. Renee Holmes.
Reserves: 16. Natalie Delamare, 17. Krystal Murray, 18. Tanya Kalounivale, 19. Chelsea Bremner, 20. Kendra Reynolds, 21. Kendra Cocksedge, 22. Sylvia Brunt, 23. Ruahei Demant.
Scotland: 1. Molly Wright, 2. Lana Skeldon, 3. Christine Belisle, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Sarah Bonar, 6. Rachel Malcolm ©, 7. Rachel McLachlan, 8. Jade Konkel-Roberts, 9. Caity Mattinson, 10. Helen Nelson, 11. Hannah Smit, 12. Lisa Thomson, 13. Emma Orr, 14. Rhona Lloyd, 15. Shona Campbell
Reserves: 16. Jodie Rettie, 17. Leah Bartlett, 18. Katie Dougan, 19. Lyndsay O'Donnell, 20. Louise McMillan, 21. Mairi McDonald, 22. Meryl Smith, 23. Liz Musgrove