1 May 2024

Three uncapped players in Black Ferns squad to contest Pacific Four Series

8:23 am on 1 May 2024
Maama Vaipulu in action for the Blues against the Hurricanes Poua.

Maama Vaipulu in action for the Blues against the Hurricanes Poua. Photo: photosport

Rising halves Hannah King and Maia Joseph are among three uncapped players named in the Black Ferns squad to contest this month's Pacific Four Series.

Blues lock Maama Vaipulu is also in line to play her first test during the three matches on home soil after the Black Ferns coaches announced a 30-woman squad they say was based on form in Super Rugby Aupiki.

The most notable omission is experienced lock Chelsea Bremner, the World Cup-winning and Chiefs Manawa lock who was included among a 40-strong group of contracted players.

Coach Allan Bunting has instead named Bremner's younger sister Alana among his contingent of four locks. Alana Bremner has been a regular on the Black Ferns blindside flank in recent seasons.

A new face in the second row is Vaipulu, who stood out in her maiden season for the Blues and is one of 10 players selected from the Super Rugby Aupiki champions.

The 21-year-old is an accomplished volleyball player who stood out with her lineout prowess.

Bunting is looking to build his playmaking stocks by introducing Matatū halfback Maia Joseph and Hurricanes Poua first five-eighth Hannah King.

Maia Joseph of the Matatu is tackled.

Maia Joseph of the Matatu is tackled. Photo: photosport

Joseph, 21, made her Super Rugby debut for Chiefs Manawa in 2022 before missing the following season with a knee injury.

Shifting south to study medicine at the University of Otago, Joseph shone this year on the field for Matatū and has chosen to put her studies on hold.

King, 20, also caught the coach's eye with a bright campaign for the Hurricanes, having shifted from Christchurch to Wellington following two seasons of Farah Palmer Cup duty with Canterbury.

Hannah King of the Hurricanes Poua.

Hannah King of the Hurricanes Poua. Photo: photosport

Blues tighthead prop Aldora Itunu earns her first Black Ferns call-up since 2021, while converted Matatū loosehead prop Marcelle Parkes and tenacious Hurricanes Poua midfielder Monica Tagoai return for the first time since 2019 and 2018 respectively.

Blues first five Ruahei Demant and Chiefs loose forward Kennedy Simon are once again named co-captains.

Black Ferns director of rugby Allan Bunting said the intense nature of the Sky Super Rugby Aupiki competition had made for a competitive selection process.

"We are hugely excited by the squad we have selected for the Pacific Four series," he said.

The New Zealand women's Sevens coach Allan Bunting.

The New Zealand women's Sevens coach Allan Bunting. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"We have seen these players perform strongly during Super Rugby Aupiki and their selection is credit to their consistent form across the competitive season.

"This series is extremely important for us, not only to provide an opportunity to expose our new players to the international stage, but to seek qualification up for the WXV1 tournament at the end of the year."

Five players were listed as unavailable for selection - Ayesha Leti-I'iga (knee), Awhina Tangen Wainohu (neck), Joanah Ngan-Woo (ankle), Santo Taumata (knee), Sophie Fisher (neck).

The Black Ferns will open their season against the United States in Hamilton on 11 May.

They face Canada in Christchurch and Australia in Albany over subsequent weekends.

Black Ferns squad

Backs: Renee Holmes, Ruby Tui, Mererangi Paul, Katelyn Vahaakolo, Patricia Maliepo, Sylvia Brunt, Amy du Plessis, Grace Steinmetz, Monica Tagoai, Ruahei Demant (co-capt), Hannah King, Iritana Hohaia, Maia Joseph

Forwards: Kennedy Simon co-capt), Layla Sae, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Charmaine Smith, Maama Vaipulu, Alana Bremner, Kate Henwood, Chryss Viliko, Marcelle Parkes, Tanya Kalounivale, Amy Rule, Aldora Itunu, Luka Connor, Georgia Ponsonby, Leaso Grace Gago Tiatia.

Black Ferns Pacific Four Series schedule

v USA, 11 May, 2.05pm, Hamilton

v Canada, 19 May, 4.35pm, Christchurch

v Australia, 25 May, 2.05pm, Albany