Victoria Grant will captain a New Zealand Black Ferns squad combining eight new caps and 15 Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010 winners for their three-Test series with England.
The Auckland full back, who made her Test debut back in 2006, takes over the captaincy from Melissa Ruscoe, the flanker having retired after leading the Black Ferns to a fourth successive Women’s Rugby World Cup crown in England last year.
Grant is joined by fellow WRWC 2010 winners Mel Bosman, Kendra Cocksedge, Faio’o Fa’amausili, Trish Hina, Emma Jensen, Justine Lavea, Rebecca Mahoney, Casey Robertson, Vita Robinson, Aroha Savage, Doris Tautafeau, Renee Wickliffe and Kelly Brazier, who kicked the winning penalty in the 13-10 final defeat of England.
A number of the WRWC 2010 winning squad were unavailable for selection for the tour of England, including IRB Women’s Personality of the Year 2010 Carla Hohepa (overseas), four-time World Cup winner Monalisa Codling (retired), Linda Itunu (injured) and Huriana Manuel.
Four of the new caps helped Auckland win the National Provincial Championship this year in Eloise Blackwell, Rawinia Everitt, Kalani Matapo and Hazel Tubic, while Muteremoana Aiatu, Shakira Baker and Katarina Whata played for runners-up Wellington.
Blooding new players
The eighth new cap is Lydia Crossman from Hawke’s Bay, while Canterbury’s Amanda Murphy is playing for the team for the first time since 2009 and 2007 Black Fern Kathleen Wilton is included after returning from playing overseas.
Grant Hansen, who steps up from the assistant role to take head coach duties on a tour which sees New Zealand face England at Twickenham on 26 October after the Barbarians v Wallabies match and then at Esher RFC on 29 November and 3 December.
“With a number of the World Cup winning Black Ferns unavailable this year it’s encouraging to have this series to blood some of the new players,” Hansen said.
This is the first of three series the teams who have contested the last three Women’s Rugby World Cup finals will play between now and 2013, with England hosting a three-Test series next year and New Zealand the other the year before WRWC 2014 in France.
“For the players to have a series between the world’s top two women’s teams at the end of each season to strive towards is great news for the development of the Women’s Game,” Hansen added.
The Black Ferns will assemble in Auckland on 17 November for a three-day camp before departing for London.
Black Ferns squad for England tour
Muteremoana Aiatu* (Wellington), Shakira Baker* (Wellington), Eloise Blackwell* (Auckland), Mel Bosman^ (Hawke’s Bay), Kelly Brazier^ (Canterbury), Kendra Cocksedge^ (Canterbury), Lydia Crossman* (Hawke’s Bay), Rawinia Everitt* (Auckland), Fiao’o Fa’amausili^ (Auckland), Victoria Grant^ (captain – Auckland), Trish Hina^ (Auckland), Emma Jensen^ (Auckland), Justine Lavea^ (Auckland), Kalani Matapo* (Auckland), Rebecca Mahoney^ (Wellington), Amanda Murphy (Canterbury), Karina Penetito^ (Auckland), Casey Robertson^ (Canterbury), Vita Robinson^ (Auckland), Amiria Rule (Canterbury), Aroha Savage^ (Auckland), Doris Taufateau^ (Auckland), Hazel Tubic*(Auckland), Katarina Whata* (Wellington), Renee Wickliffe^ (Auckland), Kathleen Wilton (Otago).
*denotes new cap
^denotes Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010 winner