Commonwealth Games sevens bronze medallists Theresa Fitzpatrick and Tyla Nathan-Wong and World Cup winners Victoria Subritzy-Nafatali and Charmaine McMenamin will join the Black Ferns for the O’Reilly Cup series against Australia.
Director of rugby Wayne Smith named the quartet in a 33-strong squad for two tests in Christchurch on August 20 and Adelaide on August 27.
Inside back Ruahei Demant will be joined as co-captain by Waikato loose forward Kennedy Simon with former skipper Les Elder again overlooked.
Elder’s hopes of making the World Cup now look dim after missing selection for a second time this year.
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Demant led the Black Ferns to the Pacific Four tournament victory in June while Simon was the 2021 Black Ferns Player of the Year but missed the most recent series with a knee injury.
Smith said the return of loose forward McMenamin and inside back Subritzky-Nafatali added experience and depth.
“Charmaine brings a huge work rate and a wise head, and it’s been her form in FPC [Farah Palmer Cup] that clinched her selection. She has recovered from what could have been a career-ending injury, so we’re excited to have her in the team.
“Vic isn’t your ordinary player – she is mercurial.” She’s returning after a long layoff and has done incredibly well to get to this point, so having her back in the mix is great.”
Nathan-Wong – a Black Ferns Olympic sevens gold medallist – is one of three new caps in the test squad, along with Chiefs props Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, 24, and Santo Taumata, 19.
Smith said the standard of play in the Farah Palmer Cup set a strong platform for players coming into this series.
The Black Ferns clinch the Pacific Four Series title with a third successive win in Whangārei.
The beauty of the FPC at the moment is there is huge attacking intent, players are in better condition and as a result we are seeing fast, open and exciting games.
“The trial we held early last month also added real depth to our game. It did end up a bit one-sided but regardless of the result there were players from both sides who showed up and we saw humility, honest endeavor and drive, which are attributes we are looking for,” said Smith.
The two-match test series holds special importance to Smith, named after his former coaching mentor and friend Laurie O’Reilly.
“Laurie inspired me to be a coach and I feel really fortunate to have had such a great relationship with him.
“These are test matches and they are called that for a reason – they test our ability to play under pressure against other world-class players. These are incredibly important games from a historic perspective, an emotional one and as a selection tool for the World Cup,” said Smith.
Black Ferns squad for O’Reilly Cup series
Hookers: Luka Connor (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty), Natalie Delamere (Matatū, Bay of Plenty), Georgia Ponsonby (Matatū, Canterbury).
Props: Tanya Kalounivale (Chiefs, Waikato), Pip Love (Matatū, Canterbury), Krystal Murray (Blues, Northland), Amy Rule (Matatū, Canterbury), Awhina Tangen-Wainohu (Chiefs, Waikato), Santon Taumata (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty ).
Locks: Chelsea Bremner (Matatū, Canterbury), Joanah Ngan Woo (Hurricanes, Wellington), Maiakawanakaulani Roos (Blues, Auckland).
Loose forwards: Alana Bremner (Matatū, Canterbury), Tafito Lafaele (Blues, Auckland), Charmaine McMenamin (Blues, Auckland), Kaipo Olsen-Baker (Hurricanes, Manawatū), Kendra Reynolds (Matatū, Bay of Plenty), Kennedy Simon (Chiefs, Waikato ).
Halfbacks: Ariana Bayler (Chiefs, Waikato), Kendra Cocksedge (Matatū, Canterbury), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (Chiefs, Counties Manukau).
Inside back: Sylvia Brunt (Auckland), Rauhei Demant (Blues, Auckland), Amy du Plessis (Matatū, Canterbury), Theresa Fitzpatrick (Blues, Auckland), Chelsea Semple (Chiefs, Waikato), Victoria Subritzy-Nafatali (Otago), Hazel Tubic ( Chiefs, Counties Manukau).
Outside back: Renee Holmes (Matatū, Waikato), Ayesha Leti-l’iga (Hurricanes, Wellington), Tyla Nathan-Wong (Blues, Northland), Grace Steinmetz (Matatū, Canterbury), Ruby Tui (Chiefs, Counties Manukau).
Unavailable due to injury: Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Grace Brooker, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson.