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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: New Zealand

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: New Zealand

The most decorated Women’s Rugby World Cup nation in history with four titles and the current number 1 ranked team in the world. The New Zealand Black Ferns will come to Ireland with a serious determination to win back their crown.

NEW ZEALAND

Head Coach: Glenn Moore
Team Captain: Fiao’o Fa’amausili
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1991 (Third), 1998 (Champions), 2002 (Champions), 2006 (Champions), 2010 (Champions), 2014 (Fifth)
Current World Ranking: 1st

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WRWC 2017 Fixtures:

Pool A –

New Zealand v Wales, Billings Park, UCD, 2.45pm, Wednesday, August 9
New Zealand v Hong Kong, Billings Park, UCD, 12pm, Sunday, August 13
Canada v New Zealand, Billings Park, UCD, 12pm, Thursday, August 17

Play-Offs –

Semi-Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Tuesday, August 22
Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Saturday, August 26

Best WRWC Moment: You can take your pick from New Zealand’s quartet of WRWC titles between 1998 and 2010 – with the great Anna Richards gracing all four tournaments – but the manner of their win in England seven years ago was extra special. Despite having three players sin-binned, Kelly Brazier’s second penalty was the decisive score in a 13-10 final victory over the tournament hosts at the Twickenham Stoop.

Soundbites: Glenn Moore – “We’ll be making World Cup selections from the wider training group. With an Olympic medal-winning Sevens team and a growing provincial tournament, there’s a lot of talent out there and the number of women with the black jersey in their sights is on the rise. We want to make sure we take the strongest squad possible to the World Cup.

“We’ve been working with a nucleus of players throughout the year, some of them rolled on from the end-of-year tour in 2016 – just trying to progress the way we’re trying to play the game to be in a better place come World Cup time.

“There were around 60 players at the trials in May, and as well as training camps, we’ve had programmes running in the regional hubs, skill programmes, S&C programmes with everything being fed back to us. We’re just trying to build some depth and improve the skill base and the strength and conditioning base of the athletes we’ve been working with.

“We want to be able to play a game that’s got a strong set piece, we want to be able to play a game that we can be direct and also use width, so work-rate and all those sorts of things are going to be really, really important. We’ve put a big emphasis, right throughout the last couple of years, on getting our core skills to a level that’s far more advanced than where they’ve been before.”

Fiao’o Fa’amausili – “I still run out with a smile on my face because I still love the game. The black jersey means everything. To me, it has layers, layers of my club jersey (Marist) and my province (Auckland Storm). So you are not just running out with these girls, you are running out with all the other players and coaches. From my first season to this, my 15th, it’s still a ‘buzzy’ feeling. I know the hardships they go through and the hurt and the early morning ‘trainings’.

“Losing the World Cup (in 2014) and coming back and thinking what to do next, a lot of players retired. From then on, I thought about the girls coming through and they needed a bit of guidance as well as some past knowledge about the Black Ferns and the legacy that was left behind. I wanted to help these girls through. I didn’t want to be selfish and leave the Black Ferns where they were at, I wanted to be part of that rebuild phase.”

Did You Know?: New Zealand players have been the top try scorers at the last two Women’s Rugby World Cups – Carla Hohepa (seven) at England 2010 and Selica Winiata and Shakira Baker (six each) shared the honour at France 2014.

Team Profile: It tells you all you need to know about New Zealand’s desire to regain the Women’s World Cup title that since their 2014 pool defeat to Ireland, they have embarked on a winning run that currently stands at 13 matches. Head coach Glenn Moore, who was appointed in October 2015, is priming the Black Ferns to peak in Dublin and Belfast.

This month’s International Women’s Series on home soil is ideal preparation for their August tilt, with New Zealand already defeating WRWC pool opponents Canada (28-16) and neighbours Australia (44-17) in Wellington and Christchurch respectively. The series concludes on Saturday in Rotorua where the Black Ferns host reigning World Cup champions England in a curtain raiser to the British & Irish Lions’ clash with the Maori All Blacks.

Moore coyly suggested that the series gives them the chance to ‘try some of the things against the same opposition we will face at World Cup, without showing too much’. The Black Ferns still showed quite a bit against Canada, although the class of try scorers Fiao’o Fa’amausili, Selica Winiata and Kendra Cocksedge (2) was already known to all and sundry who follow the Women’s game.

They hit Australia for eight tries, including braces from speedy backs Portia Woodman and Winiata, and the former certainly warmed to Dublin conditions last November with a tremendous hat-trick against Ireland at the UCD Bowl. New Zealand return to the University in August where their three pool fixtures against Wales, WRWC newcomers Hong Kong and Canada will take place at Billings Park.

Mindful of avoiding an upset result like three years ago in France where they ended up finishing fifth, captain Fa’amausili and her team-mates will be quietly confident of maintaining New Zealand’s unbeaten record against all three nations. They are three from three against Wales, 13 from 13 against Canada and Hong Kong are new opponents for the Kiwis at Test level.

Moore picked two new caps in his International Series squad, selecting the highly-rated 22-year-old centre Theresa Fitzpatrick and North Harbour lock Rebecca Wood who stood out during last month’s trials. But, showing the depth and talent at his disposal, there are a further seven players training away in regional hubs and they include current Sevens captain Tyla Nathan Wong and the vastly-experienced Carla Hohepa and Emma Jensen. The 39-year-old Jensen was part of three World Cup-winning campaigns between 2002 and 2010.

Like all New Zealand teams, the Black Ferns are very adept at creating chances and taking them, their industrious pack enhanced this season by fit-again prop Pip Love and flanker Linda Itunu. Sevens star Sarah Goss is also part of the back row contingent, while Kelly Brazier, who covers both out-half and centre, and 2015 World Player of the Year Kendra Cocksedge are two game-breaking half-backs of the highest quality.

As mentioned, full-back Winiata and winger Woodman are part of a clutch of thrilling broken-field runners in New Zealand’s mix, many of whom are crossing back to the 15-a-side game after winning silver medals in Sevens at the Rio Olympics. They are hoping to have their eyes on the big prize in Belfast come late August.

Their inspirational hooker and skipper Fa’amausili, who works as a police officer in Auckland, could set a new milestone in Dublin or Belfast. The 36-year-old currently has 46 caps and she is closing on the Black Ferns’ joint record holders – Anna Richards and Emma Jensen (49 caps each). No matter what happens in the coming weeks, Fa’amausili’s motto of ‘go hard or go home’ will be ringing in her team-mates’ ears. 

Also underpinning their ‘drive for five’ World Cups is a family-like bond among the squad – a key ingredient in the New Zealand Women’s widespread success at 15s and Sevens. Fa’amausili explains: “The Black Fern culture is a massive family. You’re missing your family at home, but we come together as one so we can show that love and support for each other.

“There’s a lot of laughter in there too – you’ve got to have that! We’ve brought a lot of singing into it, girls love singing, some of them can’t sing but they sing anyway and just move their mouths and nothing comes out! It’s good, it brings us together.” #BringIt

For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.

NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S SERIES Squad: Eloise Blackwell (Auckland), Rawinia Everitt (Counties Manukau), Fiao’o Fa’amausili (Auckland) (capt), Sarah Goss (Manawatu), Aldora Itunu (Auckland), Linda Itunu (Auckland), Lesley Ketu (Bay of Plenty), Justine Lavea (Counties Manukau), Pip Love (Canterbury), Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland), Toka Natua (Waikato), Aleisha Nelson (Auckland), Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (Counties Manukau), Aroha Savage (Counties Manukau), Angelene Sisifa (Otago), Charmaine Smith (North Harbour), Sosoli Talawadua (Waikato), Rebecca Wood (North Harbour), Chelsea Alley (Waikato), Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty), Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury), Theresa Fitzpatrick (Auckland), Honey Hireme (Waikato), Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali (Counties Manukau), Kristina Sue (Manawatu), Hazel Tubic (Counties Manukau), Janna Vaughan (Manawatu), Stacey Waaka (Waikato), Renee Wickliffe (Counties Manukau), Selica Winiata (Manawatu), Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau).

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Ireland

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: England