23 May 2024

Black Ferns demote big names following historic loss

12:19 pm on 23 May 2024
Black Ferns back Renee Holmes.

Renee Holmes of New Zealand. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Black Ferns have dropped two leading players in the wake of their historic defeat to Canada.

New Zealand face Australia in their final Pacific Four series game and opening O'Reilly Cup test at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday afternoon and they have demoted key stars Ruahei Demant and Ruby Tui.

World Champions New Zealand were beaten 22-19 last Sunday in Christchurch, their first ever loss to Canada.

The victory meant the Canadian women claimed the Pacific Four Series title off the defending champion Black Ferns and leapfrogged New Zealand to second in the world rankings.

Co-captain and World Cup winning first-five Demant will be on the bench when the Black Ferns kick off their O'Reilly Cup defence against the Wallaroos in Albany, with six changes made to their starting line-up.

Tui has been left out of matchday 23 altogether.

Ruby Tui of the New Zealand Black Ferns (black 14) makes a break. New Zealand Black Ferns v England Red Roses, WXV 1 women’s rugby union match at Go Media Stadium, Mt Smart, Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday 4 November 2023. Photo credit: Alex Leech / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Alex Leech / www.photosport.nz

Demant has been replaced by rookie No. 10 Hannah King, who will play her only second test, with coach Allan Bunting wanting to give more fringe players an opportunity to prove themselves in the test arena.

Tighthead prop Amy Rule earns her first start of the series and combining with Chryss Viliko and Georgia Ponsonby in the front row.

Amy Rule in action for New Zealand against Wales in theRugby World Cup quarter-final match at Northland Events Centre.

Amy Rule in action for New Zealand against Wales in theRugby World Cup quarter-final match at Northland Events Centre. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos will combine with the experienced Alana Bremner in the second row.

It will be the first test start at lock for loose forward Bremner, who is in line to play her 20th test.

Black Fern Alana Bremner makes a run in the pool game against Wales in the 2022 Rugby World Cup.

Black Fern Alana Bremner makes a run at the Welsh defence. Photo: Photosport

Liana Mikaele-Tu'u will shift to blindside, making way for Kaipo Olsen-Baker to start at No. 8, with loose forward Layla Sae set to make an impact off the bench.

In the backline, Hurricanes Poua halves combination of Iritana Hohaia and Hannah King earn their first Test starts of the season.

Hannah King of the Hurricanes Poua.

Hannah King of the Hurricanes Poua. Photo: photosport

The midfield combination of Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis remain, alongside left winger Katelyn Vahaakolo.

Mererangi Paul will shift to the right wing, with Renee Holmes named to start at fullback.

Prop Marcelle Parkes is on the bench and makes her Black Ferns return for the first time since 2019.

Halfback Maia Joseph and Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant are in the reserves.

Finishing off the changes, midfielder Grace Steinmetz edges her way in.

Bunting said he was excited to see the growth in this squad.

"We have taken some critical learnings from our game against Canada. This is now our opportunity to move on and take this next challenge against Australia. There is a great rivalry between our two nations, we know Australia are coming off some pain as well and know how well they played at the end of last year.

"We are looking to see change in our mental preparation this week. Alongside this, we have a refreshed starting 15, which is growing the depth in our squad, and offers them an opportunity to show their capabilities in what will be another intense battle."

Bunting congratulated Bremner on her impending milestone.

"Alana lives everything it means to be a Black Fern. She is a constant professional and leads by example. She has worked very diligently the last couple of weeks, and we are looking forward to seeing her play this weekend."

Black Ferns team to play Australia is (Test caps in brackets);

1. Chryss Viliko (4)

2. Georgia Ponsonby (22)

3. Amy Rule (21)

4. Maiakawanakaulani Roos (23)

5. Alana Bremner (19)

6. Liana Mikaele-Tu'u (20)

7. Kennedy Simon (co-captain) (22)

8. Kaipo Olsen-Baker (4)

9. Iritana Hohaia (8)

10. Hannah King (1)

11. Katelyn Vahaakolo (8)

12. Logo-i-Pulotu Lemapu-Atai'i (Sylvia) Brunt (15)

13. Amy du Plessis (16)

14. Mererangi Paul (7)

15. Renee Holmes (16)

16. Luka Connor (22)

17. Marcelle Parkes (5)

18. Aldora Itunu (25)

19. Charmaine Smith (31)

20. Layla Sae (5)

21. Maia Joseph (2)

22. Ruahei Demant (co-captain) (35)

23. Grace Steinmetz (2)

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