30 Oct 2021

Nine debutants in Black Ferns squad

7:48 am on 30 October 2021

There are nine debutants in the Black Ferns match day squad for Monday morning's first Test against England in Exeter.

Les Elder returns to captain the Black Ferns.

Les Elder returns to captain the Black Ferns. Photo: Photosport

With four debutants in the run on XV and five on the bench, Black Ferns Head Coach Glenn Moore has picked a side that is a true balance of youth and experience.

"We've had some really good talent coming through back in New Zealand and the players we have brought into our environment have really stepped up and I think those that debut this weekend will all make an impact on the game," said Moore.

Experienced players Portia Woodman and Kelly Brazier weren't considered because of injuries.

Captain Les Elder returns for her first match in the black jersey after the birth of her first child last year and is ably supported by vice captains and veterans Kendra Cocksedge and Eloise Blackwell.

"Les is an exceptional leader and is very important to this group. She leads from the front and communicates well under pressure so it is great to have her back."

An experienced front row with more than 70 combined caps in Pip Love, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate and Aleisha Pearl Nelson will set a strong platform at set piece.

Former volleyball international Kelsie Wills gets her first Test cap, having debuted for the Black Ferns in their domestic series last year, she links with Blackwell in the second row. Black Ferns Sevens player Dhys Faleafaga earns her first cap at number eight alongside fellow debutant Alana Bremner at blindside flanker, Elder rounds out the loose forward trio.

Cocksedge and Demant combine in the halves while Waikato teammates Stacey Fluhler and Chelsea Alley pair up in the midfield. There is plenty of pace on the wings with both Renee Wickliffe and Ayesha Leti-I'iga returning after missing the 2020 Black Ferns series. Renee Holmes makes her Test debut from fullback.

There are five potential debutants off the bench with teenagers Liana Mikaele-Tu'u and Patricia Maliepo, the Waikato pair of Grace Houpapa-Barrett and Ariana Bayler and Northland Captain Krystal Murray.

Moore said there was a true sense of excitement within the team selected to take part in the 100th Test.

"There is already a bit of spark in the group given it's our first Test in almost two and a half years, add to that the 100th milestone and it makes for a very special occasion."

"There is a great rivalry between these two teams so I'm sure we can expect another great Test this weekend.

Black Ferns team (caps),

1. Pip Love (11)

2. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (29)

3. Aleisha Pearl Nelson (35)

4. Eloise Blackwell (43)

5. Kelsie Wills - debut

6. Alana Bremner - debut

7. Les Elder (18) - captain

8. Dhys Faleafaga - debut

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 - debut

16. Grace Houpapa-Barrett - debut

17. Krystal Murray - debut

18. Aldora Itunu (20)

19. Liana Mikaele-Tu'u - debut

20. Kennedy Simon (4)

21. Ariana Bayler - debut

22. Patricia Maliepo - debut

23. Grace Brooker (1)

Key Facts

- This will be the 28th Test between the Black Ferns and England, the Black Ferns have won 18, drawn 1 and lost eight.

- It is the first Black Ferns Test since playing Australia at Eden Park in August 2019.

- Les Elder captains the Black Ferns for the sixth time.

- Halfback Kendra Cocksedge will be playing her 46th consecutive Test.