The four-time Women’s Rugby World Cup (WRWC) champion Black Ferns have assembled in Auckland to prepare for their three Test tour to England this month.
The Black Ferns play against WRWC runners-up England on 26 and 29 November and 3 December with the first match at Twickenham following the Australia v Barbarians match.
Coach Grant Hansen said the squad members – eight of them new to the Black Ferns this year – have been training in smaller groups heading into their camp today.
“Since we announced the squad, the girls have been training individually and in their own home towns in groups. We have a pretty intense programme for the next few days but it is great to have the whole squad training together.
“They are all eager and ready to get the tour under way,” he said.
The three Tests against England is the first instalment of a three-year programme that will see the Black Ferns play England again in 2012 and 2013.
Captain Victoria Grant welcomed the prospect of secured annual fixtures against England.
“It’s always a great contest when we face England and we are all just looking forward to getting there and playing. The annual series between our two sides will be an important part of ensuring we develop the women’s game,” Grant said.
Among those in the squad are new Black Ferns Eloise Blackwell, Rawinia Everitt, Kelani Matapo and Hazel Tubic, all from Auckland and Wellington players Muteremoana Aiatu, Shakira Baker and Katarina Whata and Lydia Crossman from Hawke’s Bay.
“The girls are pretty excited. We have an exciting mix of experienced and new talent which will create some real competition for positions in the starting XV,” she said.
Also joining the squad this week is Auckland’s Teresa Te Tamaki who makes a return to the Black Ferns as replacement for Trish Hina who has withdrawn for medical reasons.
The Black Ferns squad to tour England is:
Muteremoana Aiatu* Wellington
Shakira Baker* Wellington
Eloise Blackwell* Auckland
Mel Bosman Hawke’s Bay
Kelly Brazier^ Canterbury
Kendra Cocksedge^ Canterbury
Lydia Crossman* Hawke’s Bay
Rawinia Everitt* Auckland
Fiao’o Fa’amausili^ Auckland
Victoria Grant^ (c) Auckland
Teresa Te Tamaki Auckland
Emma Jensen^ Auckland
Justine Lavea^ Auckland
Kelani Matapo* Auckland
Rebecca Mahoney^ Wellington
Amanda Murphy Canterbury
Karina Penetito^ Auckland
Casey Robertson^ Canterbury
Vita Robinson^ Auckland
Amiria Rule Canterbury
Aroha Savage^ Auckland
Doris Taufateau^ Auckland
Hazel Tubic* Auckland
Katarina Whata* Wellington
Renee Wickliffe^ Auckland
Kathleen Wilton Otago
*denotes new cap
^denotes member of IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup squad 2010
Black Ferns 2011 tour to England (local times shown)
Saturday 26 November, Black Ferns v England, Twickenham, 5pm (local time)
Tuesday 29 November, Black Ferns v England, Esher RFC, 7pm
Saturday 3 December, Black Ferns v England, Esher RFC, 2pm