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The New Black Ferns – a View from the Outside

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Allan Bunting has announced the names of 30 players to represent Aotearoa in the remaining Pacific-4 series and the O’Reilly Cup (see full list below).

Things that strike a non-Kiwi

The announcement took place at Hamilton Girls’ High School, alma mater of three of the squad including co-captain Kennedy Simon. Which other nations think of that option?

Thirty seems a small-sized squad for a series stretching across four months. For example, only four half-backs (non-Kiwi term) are listed: Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Iritana Hohaia, Rosie Kelly and Ruahei Demant.

Bunting has relied largely on evidence from the latest Aupiki series in introducing new caps. With just four teams (franchises in all but name) competing, it will be interesting to see how justified his selections are. The 2023 winners, Matatū, lead the way with eleven selections.

An extreme example is prop Kate Henwood, who at 34 must be one of the oldest players in modern times to receive a first cap, should she get the nod.

The good news for the Ferns is that they can at last get a decent number of test matches under their belts. NZR’s fiercest critics (99% women) have rightly questioned why they play so rarely at international level.

The bad news is the absence through injury of six players: Awhina Tangen Wainohu,  Charmaine McMenamin, Hazel Tubic, Layla Sae, Patricia Maliepo and Santo Taumata.

Bunting is happy to continue Sir Wayne Smith’s policy of using co-captains, Demant and Simon are recalled to those positions.

It’s safe to say the bad days of mismanagement and discontent are left firmly behind. It remains to be seen how successful Bunting can remain as a top coach, as he moves into women’s 15s rugby for the first time.

The Squad

Kate Henwood (34, Chiefs Manawa, Bay of Plenty, uncapped), Krystal Murray (29, Hurricanes Poua, Northland, 9), Philippa Love (33, Matatū, Canterbury, 25), Georgia Ponsonby (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 13), Grace Gago (25, Blues, Counties Manukau, uncapped), Luka Connor (26, Chiefs Manawa, Bay of Plenty, 14), Amy Rule (22, Matatū, Canterbury, 12), Esther Faiaoga-Tilo (28, Blues, Waikato, uncapped), Tanya Kalounivale (24, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, 6), Chelsea Bremner (27, Chiefs Manawa, Canterbury, 12), Joanah Ngan Woo (26, Hurricanes Poua, Wellington, 17),
Maiakawanakaulani Roos (21, Blues, Auckland, 14), Alana Bremner (26, Matatū, Canterbury, 13), Kendra Reynolds (30, Matatū, Bay of Plenty, 9), Kennedy Simon (26, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, 13) – Co-Captain, Liana Mikaele Tu’u (21, Blues, Auckland, 11), Lucy Jenkins (22, Matatū, Canterbury, new cap), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (31, Chiefs Manawa, Counties Manukau, 12), Iritana Hohaia (23, Hurricanes Poua, Taranaki, uncapped), Rosie Kelly (23, Matatū, Canterbury, uncapped),
Ruahei Demant (27, Blues, Auckland, 26) – Co-Captain, Amy du Plessis (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 7),
Grace Brooker (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 3), Kelsey Teneti (20, Waikato, 1), Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt (19, Blues, Auckland, 7), Ayesha Leti-I’iga (24, Hurricanes Poua, Wellington, 21),
Katelyn Vahaakolo (23, Blues, Auckland, uncapped), Mererangi Paul (24, Chiefs Manawa, Counties Manukau, uncapped), Renee Holmes (23, Matatū, Waikato, 10), Tenika Willison (25, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, uncapped)