BLACK FERNS SUPER-CHARGED

The selection of sevens stars Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman in the starting 15 promises to boost the New Zealand Black Ferns team for their clash against Japan at Eden Park on Saturday.

Last Hit-out before World Cup

That match is the early game preceding the All Blacks v Wallabies Bledisloe Cup clash and is a final opportunity for the women’s team to build combinations and confidence heading in to their World Cup which starts in Auckland in two weeks.

Hirini is at seven, Woodman, a try scoring freak on the wing. Also in the match day 23 is another sevens ace Stacey Fluhler and these three are sure to bring a winning mentality into the side, all three were World Cup winners with the Black Ferns in 2017.

Sarah Hirini - Inspirational leadership for the NZ Sevens Team.

It’s Hirini’s first test since 2017 while Woodman and Fluhler played in last year’s disappointing tour of the Northern Hemisphere where New Zealand lost heavily to England and France.

Since then however, the New Zealand Rugby Union has finally and long overdue got serious about the women’s game, top players now contracts allowing them to train and play full-time. One of the world’s best coaches and a former World Cup winning coach with the All Blacks Wayne Smith heads a coaching team which has this Black Ferns team looking significantly better prepared to take on the big guns.

Woodman comes in replacing another prolific try-scorer, Leti-I’iga who is being rested having played all five tests this season scoring seven tries.

Portia Woodman brings pace and power

The mid-field duo of Amy du Pleases and Theresa Fitzpatrick, who switched from sevens earlier this year, line up for the second time this season and Renee Holmes returns at fullback.

Liana Mikaele-Tu starts at blindside flanker in an impressive loose-forward trio with Hirini and number eight Charmaine McMenamin. Alana Bremner was not considered due to a knee injury and co-captain Kennedy Simon is also out injured.

The vastly experienced Kendra Cocksedge returns at halfback and captain Ruahei Demand at first-five and captain.

Under Smith’s tutelage and those assisting him, the Black Ferns have considerably improved their set-piece play including line out drive defence and in that department Chelsea Bremner and Joanah Ngan-Woo start at lock, both impressing in earlier matches.

Luka Connor has been picked ahead of Georgia Ponsonby at hooker in the middle of experienced props Amy Rule and Phillipa Love.

Japan will be looking to play an uptempo game to test the Black Ferns

Japan are currently ranked 13th in the world so the Black Ferns should win comfortably enough, but coach Smith will be looking for an improvement in basic skills and in taking try-scoring opportunities when they present. All about the detail.

Japan will provide useful opposition and beat Australia earlier this season.

The Black Ferns have now won five tests on the trot, although Australia ran them close last time out in a 22-14 win.

This Black Ferns team has so much exciting potential back and forward and the ability to play the game at a pace the opposition may struggle to keep up with, but again its how accurate they are with the basics and if the forwards can lay the kind of platform from which this team could potentially blow most opponents away.

Opening match of the World Cup is Eden Park v Australia on October 8 and organisers are aiming for a sell-out record crowd.

Interview & Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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