Black Ferns coach Brian Evans has named a squad with a blend of youthful talent and experience for a three-Test series with traditional rivals England next month.
Five of the 26 players selected are uncapped in Aleisha Nelson, Jackie Patea, Charlene Halapua, Zoey Berry and Victoria Nafatali, but the squad also features a number of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010 winners.
These include forwards Stephanie TeOhaere-Fox, Ruth McKay, Faio’o Fa’amausili, Justine Lavea and Casey Robertson, and backs Emma Jensen and Kelly Brazier, who kicked the winning penalty in the 13-10 final defeat of hosts England.
Auckland police officer Fa’amausili takes over the captaincy with last year’s skipper Victoria Grant on their three-Test tour – which yielded two defeats and a draw – unable for selection due to injury. There will also be some Black Ferns' regulars missing as a result of the opening round of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series in Dubai on 30 November and 1 December.
“We are very excited about the prospect of playing England again,” said Evans, who was in charge when New Zealand beat England 13-10 in the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010 Final for a fourth straight title.
“We know they are always a formidable opposition, especially at home.
Chance to test depth
“While we have a few players who are new to the Black Ferns’ environment, we are very pleased that the Women’s Provincial Competition and the Sevens programme have provided good platforms for preparation.
“I think we have a particularly strong forward pack with some very good ball runners. We are again lucky to have some exciting backs.
“Exposure to the style of lively and strong rugby that we know England will bring will be a challenge, but one I know the women are up for. This is a good chance to test our depth as we also look ahead to next year’s tour when England travel here.”
The squad came together for a short camp in Auckland on Friday when the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup 2011 winning coach Graham Henry will help with a training session.
The Black Ferns assemble again for a pre-departure camp between 15-18 November in Auckland with the tour matches against England on 23 and 27 November at Esher RFC and the final Test at Twickenham on 1 December after the All Blacks take on England’s men.
New Zealand squad for England tour:
Forwards: Stephanie TeOhaere-Fox (Canterbury), Ruth McKay (Manawatu), Kathleen Wilton (Otago), Aleisha Nelson* (Auckland), Fiao'o Fa'amausili (Auckland, captain), Karina Stowers (Auckland), Eloise Blackwell (Auckland), Jackie Patea* (Wellington), Charlene Halapua* (Auckland), Rawinia Everitt (Auckland), Lydia Crossman (Auckland), Justine Lavea (Auckland), Aroha Savage (Auckland), Casey Robertson (Canterbury).
Backs: Zoey Berry* (Canterbury), Emma Jensen (Auckland), Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury), Victoria Nafatali* (Otago), Kelly Brazier (Otago), Teresa Te Tamaki (Waikato), Claire Richardson (Otago), Shakira Baker (Manawatu), Halie Hurring (Otago), Anika Tiplady (Otago), Selica Winiata (Manawatu), Hazel Tubic (Auckland).