PREVIEW: Black Ferns v Wallaroos (Hamilton)

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The last time they played at FMG Stadium Waikato, the World Champions defeated England 14-9 with legendary fullback Selica Winiata scoring the Sky Sport Try of the Year to get New Zealand over the line in a gripping struggle.

The Black Ferns have won 38 of 40 Tests on home soil but Australia is determined to break their duck against the hosts. The Black Ferns have won all 24 Tests against the Wallaroos, including the most recent meeting in June, winning 50-0 in Redcliffe. However, at the Rugby World Cup last year the Black Ferns were forced to rally from a long way behind to prevail.

Match Details

Who: Blacks Ferns v Wallaroos

Where: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton

When: Saturday, September 30, 4:35pm, Live on Sky Sport and Sky Open

Officials

Referee: Kat Roche (USA)

Assistant Referee 1: Natarsha Ganley (NZR)

Assistant Referee 2: Tyler Miller (RA)

TMO: Aaron Paterson (NZR)

Tight Five Changes

The Blacks Ferns have scored 141 points in three Test wins in 2023, a continuation of the exciting approach from last season. The biggest talking point of this selection is the absence of locks Joanah Ngan-Woo and Chelsea Bremner who featured in all 12 Tests in 2022. Bremner is coming back from a finger injury and Ngan-Woo is on a break.

Experience won’t be lacking with the return of Charmaine Smith. The Northland lock was outstanding for the Kauri in their Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) championship triumph. Smith retired in 2020 with a serious neck injury but has returned strongly and starts alongside Northland teammate Krystal Murray. Bay of Plenty hooker Luka Connor and Waikato tighthead prop Tanya Kalounivale will look to bring their trademark impact from the bench.

Patricia Maliepo returns at fullback for the first time since 2021 to take her place in a youthful back three. Otherwise, the squad has a familiar feel with 45 combined caps in the loose forwards and strong combinations between Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu and Ruahei Demant and Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis in the backline.

Australian Threat

Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting is not taking anything for guaranteed.

“We know that the Wallaroos will have progressed since we faced them in Brisbane during the opening game of the Pacific Four Series. We are aware of the challenge they provide, our wāhine have been working hard to be well prepared and ready for this weekend," Bunting said.
 
Since the most recent Trans-Tasman Test Rugby AU has appointed a Women’s High-Performance Manager, Jaime Fernandez. This is part of a World Rugby initiative, Accelerate, a new global framework for growth and targeted investment to fast-track the development of Women’s Rugby both on and off the field. The Wallaroos have been training at a world-class training facility in Ballymore which has won widespread acclaim from the players.

Expect Australia to bring the physicality that unsettled the Black Ferns in the World Cup opener in October 2022. While captain Piper Duck will be missed, the front row has a settled appearance boasting six more caps than the Black Ferns. Lock Michaela Leonard steps up as captain while Emily Chancellor and Ashley Marsters were outstanding at the World Cup.

The gifted Carys Dallinger will run the cutter at first five. The Hurricanes Poua pivot will be looking for a stronger outing than her debut against the Black Ferns. Ivania Wong and Maya Stewart will offer speed and evasiveness on the wings with Lori Cramer's experience at fullback. 

Australian coach Jake Tregonning said:

“The team’s last performance against the Black Ferns was a long time ago now but we’ve taken the learnings from that game and want to produce a positive result this Saturday. 

“At our camp in Brisbane, the squad has been focused on lifting their intensity and work rate to match the gameplan we want to execute out on the field.”


Dashing Debutants

Chryss Viliko, Layla Sae and Martha Mataele await their Test debuts. On Monday Viliko (20) was named Auckland Player of the Year for her standout campaign in the Storm’s FPC Premiership success. Viliko  impressed all season with her explosive carries and work rate.

Despite suffering from type 1 diabetes, Sae became a contract Black Fern in April. The Manawatū loose forward helped the Cyclones make the Championship final. In both Super Rugby Aupiki and the FPC, the 22-year-old was among the Top-20 tacklers and carries.

Canterbury’s Martha Mataele is one of the most prolific finishers in the country. In the 2022 FPC, she scored at least a try in every single game as Canterbury took out the title unbeaten. In 2023 she carried on her prodigious form for Matatū in Super Rugby Aupiki and Canterbury who were beaten by Auckland in the FPC final.

Leilani Nathan is Australia’s solitary debutant. She had an outstanding season in the backrow for the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby W. Her sister is Newcastle Knights NRLW powerhouse Nicole Nathan who’ll play in the Grand Final this Sunday.

Teams

Black Ferns: 1. Krystal Murray (10), 2. Georgia Ponsonby (16), 3. Amy Rule (16), 4. Maiakawanakaulani Roos (17), 5. Charmaine Smith (27), 6. Alana Bremner (15), 7. Kennedy Simon (16) (Co-Captain), 8. Liana Mikaele Tu’u (14), 9. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (15), 10. Ruahei Demant (29) (Co-Captain), 11. Katelyn Vahaakolo (2), 12. Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai'i (Sylvia) Brunt (9), 13. Amy du Plessis (10), 14. Mererangi Paul (2), 15. Patricia Maliepo (3)

Reserves: 16. Luka Connor (16), 17. Chryss Viliko,* 18. Tanya Kalounivale (8). 19. Lucy Jenkins (2), 20. Layla Sae,* 21. Iritana Hohaia (3), 22. Rosie Kelly (3), 23. Martha Mataele*

Wallaroos: 1. Bree-Anna Cheatham (19), 2. Adiana Talakai (12), 3. Eva Karpani (17), 4. Sera Naiqama (10), 5. Michaela Leonard (18) (Captain), 6. Kaitlan Leaney (11), 7. Emily Chancellor (32), 8. Ashley Marsters (23), 9. Layne Morgan (15), 10. Carys Dallinger (2), 11. Ivania Wong (11), 12. Trilleen Pomare (21), 13. Georgina Friedrichs (15), 14. Maya Stewart (5), 15. Lori Cramer (17)

Reserves: 16. Tania Naden (6), 17. Emily Robinson (20), 18. Bridie O’Gorman (15), 19. Leilani Nathan,* 20. Tabua Tuinakauvadra (1), 21. Jasmin Huriwai (4), 22. Cecilia Smith (8), 23. Faitala Moleka (2)

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