Three debutants named in Black Ferns team to tackle USA

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Featuring three debutants to play USA in their opening Test of the Pacific Four Series at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday 11 May, kick-off at 2.05pm. 

Black Ferns team to play USA is (Test caps in brackets);

1. Kate Henwood (4)
2. Georgia Ponsonby (20)
3. Tanya Kalounivale (11) 
4. Maiakawanakaulani Roos (21)     
5. Maama Mo'onia Vaipulu*
6. Liana Mikaele Tu'u (18)   
7. Kennedy Simon (20) (co-captain)
8. Layla Sae (3)     
9. Maia Joseph*
10. Ruahei Demant (33) (co-captain)
11. Katelyn Vahaakolo (6)     
12. Logo-i-Pulotu Lemapu-Atai'i (Sylvia) Brunt (13)     
13. Amy du Plessis (14)
14. Ruby Tui (13)
15. Mererangi Paul (5)
16. Luka Connor (20)     
17. Chryss Viliko (2)
18. Amy Rule (19) 
19. Charmaine Smith (29)
20. Kaipo Olsen-Baker (2)
21. Iritana Hohaia (6)     
22. Hannah King*    
23. Patrica Maliepo (7)

*Denotes Black Ferns debut.

Unavailable: Renee Holmes. 

Three exciting young players are in-line to make their international debut. Sky Super Rugby Aupiki stand-out lock Maama Mo'onia Vaipulu and diligent halfback Maia Joseph have been named in the starting fifteen, while confident young first five-eighth Hannah King is set to debut off the bench. 

Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting congratulated the debutants on their selection.


“Each of these ladies have continued to impress us since joining the Black Ferns squad. They have worked diligently and it’s awesome to be able to reward them with this opportunity and enjoy the occasion. It will be a special moment for them and their whānau and one they should be proud of. We are all excited for them and have their backs this weekend.”

Allan Bunting Black Ferns Director of Rugby

 A powerful forward pack will see Kate Henwood combine with starting hooker Georgia Ponsonby and tighthead Tanya Kalounivale. The formidable Blues locking duo of Maiakawanakaulani Roos and Vaipulu will complete the tight five. A relentless loose forward trio of Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, at blindside, Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon at openside and Layla Sae at No.8 will complete a strong forward pack.


In the backs, Joseph and Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant have been named as the starting halves combination. Last year’s sensational pairing of Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis will cover the midfield at second-five and centre respectively. The back three will see a dynamic duo of Katelyn Vahaakolo and Ruby Tui on the wings, with Mererangi Paul named at fullback. 

In the reserves, a strong replacement front row of Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko and Amy Rule will be a force off the bench. While experienced lock Charmaine Smith and returning Black Ferns loose forward Kaipo Olsen-Baker will inject plenty of energy into the forward pack. 

An energetic trio of Iritana Hohaia, King and Patricia Maliepo will be eager to impress off the bench when given the opportunity.

Bunting said that he believes the 23 selected are energised and eager for the opportunity to open their Test season at home. 
“We have seen consistency in a few areas we have been working through and we are looking forward to seeing this in our opening Test. Our coaching group have been pleased with the intent and focus our squad have been putting in. We know our ladies are eager to kick-off their international season and take on the USA in front of our fans at home.”

Key Facts

  • This will be the 15th Test between the Black Ferns and USA.
  • The Black Ferns last played USA was in Ottawa, Canada in 2023, the Black Ferns won 39 – 17.
  • Maama Mo'onia Vaipulu will become a dual international (Rugby and Volleyball) when she takes the field.
  • Maia Joseph will become a dual international (Rugby and Touch Rugby), when she takes the field.
  • Charmaine Smith is in-line to play her 30th Test for the Black Ferns.
  • Amy Rule is in-line to play her 20th Test for the Black Ferns.


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