6 Oct 2022

Black Ferns tinker with team for opening World Cup match

9:33 am on 6 October 2022

The Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith is still searching for his top team ahead of their World Cup title defence, which starts this weekend.

Women's Autumn International, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England 7/11/2021
England vs New Zealand
New Zealand's Stacey Fluhler
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Stacey Fluhler will play in the midfield against Australia. Photo: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

He has named his side for Saturday's opening match against Australia at Eden Park, making a few tweaks to the matchday 23 that crushed Japan late last month.

Amy du Plessis will start at second-five for the first time and links with Stacey Fluhler in the midfield, who replaces Theresa Fitzpatrick.

Loose forwards Charmaine McMenamin and Liana Mikaele-Tu'u swap positions from the test against Japan, playing blindside flanker and No.8 respectively.

Smith said the coaching group are not set on what their best team looks like at the moment.

"We have a lot of players that have the ability to fill starting positions, so we need to give opportunities and see who takes them. We've wanted to look at Amy at second five for a while and Stacey comes into centre where she is world class.

"Liana and Charmaine are an exciting combo, Liana is an explosive athlete who is really good in the line out so wanted to see her at eight."

The long wait to kick off for Rugby World Cup is almost over for the Black Ferns, with the team preparing to play in front of the biggest crowd ever seen for a women's sporting match in New Zealand.

"We don't want the pressure of the crowd to change anything for our team. We have to be free, play with joy, go out there and love what we are doing," said Smith.

On what to expect from his side this weekend, Smith said the Australian team will present a challenge and that the Black Ferns will be focusing their energy on what they can control.

"I've talked a lot about wanting to reflect the DNA of our country; we always play attacking rugby. That's what I want us to show on the field and if we do, it'll be exciting.

"This weekend is a real opportunity for us, with a big crowd there, to show what we can do."

Saturday will be the third time the Black Ferns have played Australia at a Rugby World Cup, with previous encounters in 2002 (a 36-3 win) and 2010 (a 32-5 win). The teams have met three times in 2022, with matches already in Tauranga, Christchurch and Adelaide.

17 Black Ferns will be making their Rugby World Cup debut.

The match is the third in a triple-header opening day at Eden Park, kicking off at 7.15pm on Saturday evening.

The team is;

Phillipa Love (20)

Luka Connor (9)

Amy Rule (7)

Joanah Ngan-Woo (11)

Chelsea Bremner (6)

Charmaine McMenamin (28)

Sarah Hirini (11)

Liana Mikaele-Tu'u (7)

Kendra Cocksedge (62)

Ruahei Demant (21) - captain

Portia Woodman (20)

Amy du Plessis (4)

Stacey Fluhler (21)

Ruby Tui (5)

Renee Holmes (5)

Georgia Ponsonby (7)

Awhina Tangen-Wainohu (2)

Santo Taumata (2)

Maiakawanakaulani Roos (8)

Kendra Reynolds (6)

Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (10)

Hazel Tubic (17)

Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai'i Sylvia Brunt (4)

Unavailable due to injury: Alana Bremner, Tanya Kalounivale, Ayesha Leti-I'iga and Kennedy Simon.