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Three debutants named in Black Ferns squad to take on USA »

The Black Ferns coaching group have named their matchday squad of 23 players.

With three debutants playing against the USA in their opening Test of the Pacific Four Series at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday 11 May, kick-off at 2.05pm.

The Black Ferns team playing 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)

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.

Three exciting young players are set to make their international debuts. Sky Super Rugby Aupiki standout lock Maama Mo’onia Vaipulu and industrious halfback Maia Joseph have been named in the starting fifteen, while confident young first five-eighth Hannah King is set to make her debut off the bench.

Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting congratulated the debutants on their selection.

“Each of these ladies have continued to impress us since joining the Black Ferns squad. They have worked hard and it is great to be able to reward them with this opportunity and enjoy the occasion. It will be a special moment for them and their whānau and something they can be proud of. We are all excited for them and behind them this weekend.”

Allan Bunting Black Ferns, Director of Rugby

A powerful forward pack will see Kate Henwood combine with starting hooker Georgia Ponsonby and tight end Tanya Kalounivale. Formidable Blues lock duo Maiakawanakaulani Roos and Vaipulu complete the tight five. A ruthlessly loose attacking trio of Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, on the blindside, Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon on the openside and Layla Sae at number 8, will complete a strong forward line.

At the back, Joseph and Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant have been named as the starting halves pairing. Last year’s sensational combination of Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis will cover midfield in the second five and center positions respectively. The back three will see a dynamic duo of Katelyn Vahaakolo and Ruby Tui on the wings, with Mererangi Paul at wing-back.

In the reserves, a strong replacement front row of Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko and Amy Rule will be a force off the bench. While experienced lock Charmaine Smith and returning Black Ferns loose forward Kaipo Olsen-Baker will inject plenty of energy into the forward pack.

An energetic trio of Iritana Hohaia, King and Patricia Maliepo will be keen to impress from the bench if given the chance.

Bunting said he believes the 23 selected are energetic and eager for the opportunity to open their Test season at home.
“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.”

Key facts

  • This will be the 15th Test between the Black Ferns and the USA.
  • The Black Ferns last played in the US in Ottawa, Canada in 2023, the Black Ferns won 39 – 17.
  • Maama Mo’onia Vaipulu will be a double international (rugby and volleyball) when she steps onto the field.
  • Maia Joseph will be a dual international (Rugby and Touch Rugby) when she takes to the field.
  • Charmaine Smith is in line to play her 30th Test for the Black Ferns.
  • Amy Rule is in line to play her 20th Test for the Black Ferns.