December 11, 2023

Seven changes to Black Ferns for Pacific Championship bounceback against Wales

France celebrate their WXV 1 win over Black Ferns.

Coach Allan Bunting has made seven changes – including four to his starting line-up – as he tries to put the Black Ferns’ WXV 1 campaign back on track against Wales.

The reigning world champions stumbled out of the blocks in the inaugural competition, with an error-riddled 18-17 defeat to France, who avenged their own one-point loss to the Kiwis at last year’s World Cup semis.

New Zealand dominated the encounter statistically, spending 12 minutes camped in their opponents’ 22 and forced them into 201 tackles, but could not capitalise on those statistics, committing 15 handling errors to let the pressure.

Bunting has largely kept faith with the backline that took the field against France – his only change sees Mererangi Paul replace tryscorer Katelyn Vahaakolo on the wing – but reshuffles the forward pack.

Prop Krystal Murray drops to the bench, after a performance that saw her return to the field late, when replacement Chryss Viliko was red-carded for a clumsy high tackle. Murray reinvigorated a scrum that actually overpowered their counterparts, despite being a player short.

Viliko has been suspended three games, after her early exit.

Kate Henwood will replace Murray in the starting XV, with Chelsea Bremner promoted from the bench into the second row and loose forward Layla Sae making her second appearance for the national team at blindside flanker.

The reserves stay largely unchanged, with halfback Iritana Hohaia the only addition.

“There was plenty to be proud about our game against France and we were pleased with the growth our wāhine displayed in certain aspects of our game,” said Bunting. “We needed to be smarter about where our energy is used against quality teams like France.

“As a coaching group too, we can be better at how we prepare our wāhine moving forward. We see that game as a gift for us at this stage of our journey, as we shift our focus to Wales, and we have been working well at making critical adjustments as a group.

“I know the team are eager to get back out on the field against a quality Welsh side and play the game on our terms a bit more down here in beautiful Dunedin at this awesome stadium.”

New Zealand dispatched Wales twice at the World Cup – once in poolplay and again in the quarter-finals – and the northern side suffered a heavy 42-22 loss to Canada in their WXV debut last week.

Black Ferns: 1-Kate Henwood, 2-Georgia Ponsonby, 3-Amy Rule, 4-Maia Roos, 5-Chelsea Bremner, 6-Layla Sae, 7-Kennedy Simon, 8-Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, 9-Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, 10-Ruahei Demant, 11-Mererangi Paul, 12-Sylvia Brunt, 13-Amy du Plessis, 14-Ruby Tui, 15-Renee Holmes

Reserves: 16-Luka Connor, 17-Krystal Murray, 18-Tanya Kalounivale, 19-Alana Bremner, 20-Lucy Jenkins, 21-Iritana Hohaia, 22-Patricia Maliepo, 23-Martha Mataele

Join Newshub at 4pm Saturday for live updates of the Black Ferns v Wales WXV 1 test

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