Their last international outing on home soil was on August 17, 2019, when they defeated the Wallaroos 37-8 at Eden Park. That was their 19th straight victory over their trans-Tasman rivals. There are six survivors in the match-day 23 from that Black Ferns team.
There were, of course, two encounters with the NZ Barbarians in spring 2020. Lock Chelsea Bremner, who makes her Test debut against Australia, alongside her sister Alana, first appeared for the Black Ferns in that series.
There are several interesting strands to this international, not the least of which are the four starting debutantes – Bremner, No 8 Kaipo Olsen-Baker, fresh off a standout Super Rugby Aupiki campaign with the Hurricanes Poua, centre Kelsey Teneti and wing Ruby Tui. The wing is no callow rookie, though, having played in 40 tournaments and 158 games for the champion Black Ferns Sevens. Props Angel Mulu and Tanya Kalounivale are set to debut off the bench, as is promising Blues loose forward Tafito Lafaele.
The pack is youthful, if inexperienced, at international level, but the forwards are fit and in-form, so it will be fascinating to see how swiftly they hook into their work and seek to take control at the set-piece and breakdown.
Halfback Kendra Cocksedge will run out for her record 58th Test match, surpassing the mark set by the great Fiao’o Faamausili. This will be Cocksedge’s 50th consecutive international, and she has 352 points to her credit.
The versatile Hazel Tubic looks set to make an impact in the No 22 jersey, as will the likes of hooker Luka Connor, one of the best in Super Rugby Aupiki.
New Black Ferns director of rugby Wayne Smith has had several weeks to hone combinations and cement expectations and, with the help of new skipper Ruahei Demant, the onus will go on the Black Ferns to deliver a performance of quality four months out from the Rugby World Cup opener against the same opponents.
The Black Ferns are currently ranked No 2 in the world, while Australia is at No 6.
There will be some familiar faces in the Wallaroos squad. The seasoned prop Liz Patu and captain and flanker Shannon Parry will be joined by the dangerous wing Mahalia Murphy, while Aupiki fans will recognise lock Michaela Leonard and reserve back Arabella McKenzie, who both played for Matatū in March.
Though the Wallaroos were starved of international rugby in 2020-21 due to Covid-19, they have enjoyed a decent build-up to this series, having come off Super W and two Test matches last month against Fijiana and Japan. They beat Fijiana 36-19 but were edged 12-10 by Japan.
Kickoff is at 2.45pm on Monday at the Tauranga Domain and will be televised on Spark Sport, preceded, at 12.15pm, by No 3-ranked Canada versus No 7-ranked USA Eagles. Delayed coverage of the Black Ferns match will be played an hour later on Three and ThreeNow. Get your tickets to the game HERE.
Black Ferns: 1. Krystal Murray 2. Georgia Ponsonby 3. Amy Rule 4. Maia Roos 5. Chelsea Bremner 6. Alana Bremner 7. Kendra Reynolds 8. Kaipo Olsen-Baker 9. Kendra Cocksedge 10. Ruahei Demant (c) 11. Ayesha Leti-I’iga 12. Chelsea Semple 13. Kelsey Teneti 14. Ruby Tui 15. Renee Holmes
Reserves: 16. Luka Connor 17. Angel Mulu 18. Tanya Kalounivale 19. Joanah Ngan-Woo 20. Tafito Lafaele 21. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu 22. Hazel Tubic 23. Cheyelle Robins-Reti
Wallaroos: 1. Liz Patu 2. Adiana Talakai 3. Bridie O’Gorman 4. Michaela Leonard 5. Kaitlan Leaney 6. Emily Chancellor 7. Shannon Parry (c) 8. Grace Hamilton 9. Iliseva Batibasaga 10. Trilleen Pomare 11. Ivania Wong 12. Pauline Piliae-Rasabale 13. Georgina Friedrichs 14. Mahalia Murphy 15. Lori Cramer
Reserves: 16. Ashley Marsters 17. Madison Schuck 18. Eva Karpani 19. Annabelle Codey 20. Piper Duck 21. Layne Morgan 22. Cecilia Smith 23. Arabella McKenzie