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Anne Photograp News 2024

Three debutants named for Black Ferns season opener against USA
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Three debutants named for Black Ferns season opener against USA

New Zealand and the USA will kick off the 2024 Pacific Four Series in Hamilton this weekend, and Black Ferns coach All Bunting has not been afraid to throw some bright young stars into matchday 23.

Three debutants have been named for the battle against the USA, with the impressive Maama Mo’onia Vaipulu starting alongside Maiakawanakaulani Roos in the second row and Maia Joseph entrusted with the number 9 jersey. 20-year-old playmaker Hannah King has been named for her debut off the bench, with co-captain Ruahei Demant retaining the number 10 jersey for her.

After breakthrough seasons in Super Rugby Aupiki, the youngsters continued to impress Bunting and his coaching team at the Black Ferns camp, with their selections coming at the expense of some more experienced names.

“Each of these ladies have continued to impress us since joining the Black Ferns squad,” Bunting said.

“They have worked hard and it is great to be able to reward them with this opportunity and enjoy this opportunity. It will be a special moment for them and their wh?nau and something they can be proud of. We are all excited for them and behind them this weekend.”

It will be the team’s first match of 2024 and the first since their disappointing WXV 1 campaign in 2023, which saw the reigning world champions finish fourth with just one win from their three matches.

Bunting said the team was motivated for the occasion and noted the consistency he had seen in key areas during training camp.

“We have seen consistency in a number of areas we have been working on and we look forward to seeing this in our opening test. Our coaching group is satisfied with the intention and focus that our team has brought. We know our ladies are eager to get their international season underway and take on the USA at home in front of our fans.”

The Black Ferns team playing against USA is (Test caps in brackets)

1. Kate Henwood (4)
2. Georgia Ponsonby (20)
3. Tanya Kalounivale (11)
4. Maiakawanakaulani Rose (21)
5. Maama Mo’onia Vaipulu*
6. Liana Mikaele Tu’u (18)
7. Kennedy Simon (20) (co-captain)
8. Layla Sae (3)
9. Maia Joseph*
10. Ruahei Demant (33) (co-captain)
11. Katelyn Vahaakolo (6)
12. Logo-i-Pulotu Lemapu-Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt (13)
13. Amy du Plessis (14)
14. Ruby Tui (13)
15. Mererangi Paul (5)

Reservations

16. Luka Connor (20)
17. Chryss Viliko (2)
18. Amy Rule (19)
19. Charmaine Smith (29)
20. Kaipo Olsen Baker (2)
21. Iritana Hohaia (6)
22. Hanna Koning*
23. Patricia Maliepo (7)

*Denotes the debut of Black Fern.

Not available: Renée Holmes.