Source: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The Black Ferns unveiled

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Glenn Moore has announced his squad to face the Red Roses in their first encounter for two years:

1. Pip Love (11)
2. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (29)
3. Aleisha Pearl Nelson (35)
4. Eloise Blackwell (43)
5. Kelsie Wills (uncapped)
6. Alana Bremner (uncapped)
7. Les Elder (18) (captain)
8. Dhys Faleafaga (uncapped)
9. Kendra Cocksedge (53)
10. Ruahei Demant (11)
11. Ayesha Leti-I’iga (9)
12. Chelsea Alley (24)
13. Stacey Fluhler (16)
14. Renee Wickliffe (41)
15. Renee Holmes (uncapped)


16. Grace Houpapa-Barrett (uncapped)
17. Krystal Murray (uncapped)
18. Aldora Itunu (20)
19. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u (uncapped)
20. Kennedy Simon (4)
21. Ariana Bayler (uncapped)
22. Patricia Maliepo (uncapped)
23. Grace Brooker (1)

Before flying out Moore was in a similar position to Simon Middleton. His training squad contained a large number of new faces (12/34). Unlike Middleton (one starter, one bencher), he has selected four newcomers to start and five more to appear off the bench.

The contrast on the bench alone is utterly remarkable. The Black Ferns have the experienced Aldora Itunu surrounded by seven team-mates who muster five caps between them. England offer a cool 278.

Whatever the talents of the Ferns’ replacements, the experience the hosts have of dramatic last quarters must be an advantage. Home crowds have had to get used to tight finishes; the Ferns may be less generous than the French in letting leads slip away after the 80 minutes are up.

We need have no fear of England gliding to victory against innocents abroad. The Ferns may not have played a test match for well over two years – and that against the Wallaroos – but they have outstanding players where it matters, and you don’t come to wear a black shirt unless you have what it takes.

The front row has a combined 75 caps between them, huge by Kiwi standards, and the half-back combination of Kendra Cocksedge and Ruahei Demant will have to be locked up in a small room if they are not to do serious damage.

England couldn’t counter Renee Wickliffe last time they met (a hat-trick), but she should find the wide defences less porous at Sandy Park. And Lydia Thompson is denied the pleasure of facing Portia Woodman for a third time.

Moore has shown the confidence he has in the players he has brought over. Even so, it is a surprise to see such a clear-out of established players less than a year before their home world cup.

The choices made by two experienced head coaches only add to the anticipation of a great match to come.