The Black Ferns squad to defend its World Cup title in over a month’s time on home soil has been named.
During the Black Ferns’ livestream today, led by New Zealand Rugby deputy chair and former Rugby World Cup champ Dr Farah Palmer, two Māori players were named as co-captains - Ruahei Demant (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa) and Kennedy Simon (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Māhanga).
The backs see the return of Te Ao Toa presenter Stacey Fluhler (Ngāi Tūhoe), Renee Holmes (Ngāti Porou), Portia Woodman (Ngāpuhi), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (Te Uri Taniwha, Ngāti Hineira, Ngāpuhi, Ngai Tāhuhu) and Renee Wickliffe (Ngāti Hako, Ngāti Tamaterā).
The forwards are bolstered by Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, Sarah Hirini (Ngāti Kahungunu), Kendra Reynolds (Ngāti Ranginui), Krystal Murray (Te Rarawa), Natalie Delamere (Tuhoe, Te Whānau-a-Apanui), Kennedy Simon (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Māhanga).
Wickliffe, along with veteran halfback Kendra Cocksedge, will make her fourth Rugby World Cup appearance when the postponed 2021 tournament kicks off on October 8 against Australia. The squad itself has a lot of experience mixed with youth, the youngest player Sylvia Brunt being only 18-years-old.
Māori co-captains to lead Black Ferns to World Cup glory.
It will be coach Wayne Smith’s first women’s World Cup but fifth overall. He says he hopes the new coaching set-up under his wing will have the supporters out in droves throughout the tournament.
"We’ve talked a lot this year about wanting to play an exhilarating style of rugby and we have seen that developing throughout the year. We want to play on top of the opposition and that requires a certain set of skills that we have been working really hard on,” he says.
Palmer says she and the rest of Aotearoa cannot wait to watch the team play.
“All I have to say is, karawhiua – go out there and give it heaps!”