Match Details: Black Ferns v Wales, Sunday 16 October, 3:15pm NZT, Waitakere Stadium
Watch: Live on Spark Sport
Referee: Hollie Davidson
Assistant Referees: Julianne Zussman (AR1), Tyler Miller (AR2)
TMO: Chris Assmus
Wales are ranked eighth in the world and beat Scotland in their opening World Cup match in Whangārei 18-15 on Sunday. Halfback Keira Bevan kicked a 30-metre penalty in the 86th minute, following a 24-phase attack, to deny the Scots a share of the honours.
Wales have only won 80 of their 219 Tests and have fallen to New Zealand in each of their previous meetings, all at the World Cup.
In the 1991 World Cup New Zealand beat Wales 24-6. Lesley Brett (3), Amanda Ford and Anna Richards scored tries for the victors.
In 2010 Hurricanes Poua coach Victoria Grant captained the Black Ferns to a 41-8 victory in pool play. Kelly Brazier scored three tries.
Four years later the Black Ferns clashed with Wales in a consolation playoff and won 63-7. Honey Hireme-Smiler scored four tries.
In 2017 a Portia Woodman hat-trick was the telling difference for the Black Ferns in a 44-12 success.
The Black Ferns will be seeking a vastly improved start from their first match against Australia. A win will all-but secure a place in the quarter finals. The Black Ferns World Cup record is 31-2 and their home record is 33-2 which includes a 28-0 victory over Canada in June in their only Waitakere test.
The Black Ferns tumbled to a 17-0 deficit within 30 minutes against Australia. It’s not the first time they’ve made a slow start in 2022. In June they trailed at halftime against Australia in Tauranga. In another Test, they only led Canada 6-0 at the break eventually winning 28-0. By contrast Wales made a fast start in their 18-15 win against Scotland skipping out to a 15-5 halftime advantage.
When asked about the sluggish start last Saturday Black Ferns Director of Rugby Wayne Smith said.
“Last night when we got back to the hotel I went straight upstairs and coded the first half an hour. I finished that at quarter to one and then woke up every couple of hours screaming. I don’t think we handled the occasion that well. I thought Australia did. They were sharp, aggressive and took it to us.”
What’s the solution to the slow start?
With ten changes to the starting XV, six in the forwards and four in the backs, plus positional switches for Charmaine McMenamin (six to eight) and Ruby Tui (wing to fullback) the onus is on the new selections to improve their “mindset” and “physicality” initially to pave the way.
The Black Ferns have conceded an average of eight points or less in the first half of previous Tests against Wales.
Play the Space
If the Black Ferns win the collisions, the gritty forwards tussle, there could be pyrotechnics. Portia Woodman has scored 16 tries in five World Cup Tests, Ruby Tui is playing with great expression and Renee Wickliffe has four World Cup tournaments of experience to draw upon. Sylvia Brunt and Theresa Fitzpatrick are a new midfield combination.
Hannah Jones (39 Tests) and Megan Jones (9 Tests) are in midfield for Wales. Jones suffered glandular fever for months last season which ruled her out of rugby altogether.
Welsh wing Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Joyce has been to two Olympic Sevens and Lisa Neumann has 27 caps dating back to 2018.
Siwan Lillicrap is one of seven survivors from the Welsh line-up from the 2017 World Cup fixture. The lock has 47 caps, the Black Ferns pack has 70 combined. Sioned Harris has scored a try in her last two Tests against the Black Ferns and made an industrious 15 carries last Sunday against Scotland.
Cara Hope and Donna Rose will try to put the squeeze on at scrum time, an area where the Black Ferns have been vulnerable in the recent past.
Black Ferns assistant coach Wes Clark observed of Wales:
“I think they will be maybe a little bit disappointed with how their set piece went, so they will put a bit of emphasis on that and come out firing.
“Like Smithy (Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith) always says, he’s been to a few World Cups now, teams put a little bit extra in at a World Cup, especially against us, so we are probably expecting a bit of fire and brimstone as well.”
15. Ruby Tui, 14. Renee Wickliffe, 13. Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt, 12. Theresa Fitzpatrick, 11. Portia Woodman, 10. Ruahei Demant (c), 9. Ariana Bayler, 8. Charmaine McMenamin, 7. Kendra Reynolds, 6. Alana Bremner 5. Chelsea Bremner, 4. Maiakawanakaulani Roos, 3. Tanya Kalounivale, 2. Georgia Ponsonby, 1. Awhina Tangen-Wainohu
Reserves: 16. Luka Connor, 17. Krystal Murray, 18. Santo Taumata, 19. Joanah Ngan-Woo, 20. Sarah Hirini, 21. Kendra Cocksedge, 22. Amy du Plessis, 23. Hazel Tubic.
15. Kayleigh Powell, 14. Jasmine Joyce, 13. Megan Webb, 12. Hannah Jones, 11. Lisa Neumann, 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Ffion Lewis, 8. Sioned Harries, 7. Beth Lewis, 6. Gwen Crabb, 5. Natalia John, 4. Siwan Lillicrap ©, 3. Donna Rose, 2. Kelsey Jones, 1. Cara Hope
Reserves: 16. Kat Evans, 17. Caryl Thomas, 18. Sisilia Tuipulotu, 19. Abbie Fleming, 20. Alex Callender, 21. Keira Bevan, 22. Robyn Wilkins, 23. Kerin Lake