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Black Ferns v Wallaroos: Battle for a WXV 1 spot

PREVIEW: A WXV1 spot is on the line, as Australia travel to Auckland to face New Zealand on Saturday.

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At the back of defeats to Canada and USA in the Pacific Four Series, Australia must secure a victory against traditional rivals New Zealand to book a spot in the WXV1.

If the women in gold fail to do that, they will miss the prestigious event in October.

It will certainly be a big task for Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp, who has the task of leading the team to a first win over the Black Ferns.

“While the first two results against Canada and USA have not been what we were after, the team has come together well and have shown some good learnings and progressions,” Yapp said.

“We’ve had a really good week of training in Auckland and I am excited to see how the team performs against the Black Ferns.”

Yapp has reshuffled her side that suffered defeat last week in Melbourne while Ashley Marsters is unavailable for the clash due to an ankle injury.

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Queensland Reds captain Cecilia Smith comes in for her first match of the series with Atasi Lafai and Leilani Nathan set to start in the forwards, shifting Kaitlan Leaney and Trilleen Pomare to the reserves.

Caitlyn Halse, 17, retains her spot at fullback after making her debut last week with Lori Cramer dropping out of the squad and Tabua Tuinakauvadra as the new face on the bench.

Michaela Leonard is set to play her 25th Test in a career milestone for the Wallaroos captain while the match is one of two internationals played against the Black Ferns in 2024 for the O’Reilly Cup.

The Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting named an exciting twenty-three, featuring the inclusion of experienced campaigners Alana Bremner and Renee Holmes for their final Test of the Pacific Four Series.

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A powerful forward pack will take the field with tighthead prop Amy Rule earning her first start of the series and combining with Chryss Viliko and Georgia Ponsonby in the front row.

In-form lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos will combine with the experienced Alana Bremner, who is in line to play her 20th Test in the Black Ferns jersey, her first start at lock. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u will shift back to the blindside making way for Kaipo Olsen-Baker to start at No.8, with loose forward Layla Sae set to make an impact off the bench this weekend.

In the backline, Hurricanes Poua halves combination of Iritana Hohaia and Hannah King earn their first Test starts of the season. The relentless midfield combination of Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis remain, alongside left wing Katelyn Vahaakolo. Mererangi Paul will shift to the right wing, with Renee Holmes named to start at fullback.

Marcelle Parkes makes her Black Ferns return for the first time since 2019, as loosehead prop.

Scrumhalf Maia Joseph and Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant will be a notable injection off the bench. Finishing off the changes, midfielder Grace Steinmetz edges her way into the twenty-three.

Bunting said he was excited to see the growth in this squad.

“We have taken some critical learnings from our game against Canada. This is now our opportunity to move on and take this next challenge against Australia. There is a great rivalry between our two nations, we know Australia are coming off some pain as well and know how well they played at the end of last year.

“We are looking to see change in our mental preparation this week. Alongside this, we have a refreshed starting fifteen, which is growing the depth in our squad, and offers them an opportunity to show their capabilities in what will be another intense battle.”

Teams:

Black Ferns: 15 Renee Holmes, 14 Mererangi Paul, 13 Amy du Plessis, 12 Logo-i-Pulotu Lemapu-Atai’i, 11 Katelyn Vahaakolo, 10 Hannah King, 9 Iritana Hohaia, 8 Kaipo Olsen-Baker, 7 Kennedy Simon, 6 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, 5 Alana Bremner, 4 Maiakawanakaulani Roos, 3 Amy Rule, 2 Georgia Ponsonby, 1 Chryss Viliko.
Replacements: 16 Luka Connor, 17 Marcelle Parkes, 18 Aldora Itunu, 19 Charmaine Smith, 20 Layla Sae, 21 Maia Joseph, 22 Ruahei Demant, 23 Grace Steinmetz

Wallaroos: 15 Caitlyn Halse, 14 Maya Stewart, 13 Georgina Friedrichs, 12 Cecilia Smith, 11 Desiree Miller, 10 Arabella McKenzie, 9 Samantha Wood, 8 Piper Duck , 7 Leilani Nathan, 6 Siokapesi Palu, 5 Atasi Lafai, 4 Michaela Leonard, 3 Eva Karpani, 2 Tania Naden, 1 Brianna Hoy.
Replacements: 16 Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke, 17 Sally Fuesaina, 18 Bridie O’Gorman, 19 Kaitlan Leaney, 20 Tabua Tuinakauvadra, 21 Layne Morgan, 22 Trilleen Pomare, 23 Faitala Moleka.

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
Kick-off: 14.05 (02.05 GMT; 12.05 AEST)
Referee: TBC

 

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