Black Ferns Pacific Four Series and O’Reilly Cup announced for 2023

Black Ferns Pacific Four Series and O’Reilly Cup announced for 2023

A new era for the Rugby World Cup winning Black Ferns is underway with the first squad named today ahead of their opening Test for the Pacific Four Series and O’Reilly Cup against Australia in Brisbane later this month.

Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting has named 30 players in the squad to compete abroad in Brisbane and Ottawa, before returning home to play in front of fans at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton at the end of September.

The Black Ferns team is (Age/Super Club/Province/Test caps):
Loosehead Props

Kate Henwood (34, Chiefs Manawa, Bay of Plenty, new cap)
Krystal Murray (29, Hurricanes Poua, Northland, 9)
Philippa Love (33, Matatū, Canterbury, 25)

Georgia Ponsonby (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 13)
Grace Gago (25, Blues, Counties Manukau, new cap)
Luka Connor (26, Chiefs Manawa, Bay of Plenty, 14)

Tighthead Props
Amy Rule (22, Matatū, Canterbury, 12)
Esther Faiaoga-Tilo (28, Blues, Waikato, new cap)
Tanya Kalounivale (24, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, 6)

Chelsea Bremner (27, Chiefs Manawa, Canterbury, 12)
Joanah Ngan Woo (26, Hurricanes Poua, Wellington, 17)
Maiakawanakaulani Roos (21, Blues, Auckland, 14)

Loose Forwards
Alana Bremner (26, Matatū, Canterbury, 13)
Kendra Reynolds (30, Matatū, Bay of Plenty, 9)
Kennedy Simon (26, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, 13) – Co-Captain
Liana Mikaele Tu'u (21, Blues, Auckland, 11)
Lucy Jenkins (22, Matatū, Canterbury, new cap)

Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (31, Chiefs Manawa, Counties Manukau, 12)
Iritana Hohaia (23, Hurricanes Poua, Taranaki, new cap)

First Five-Eighths
Rosie Kelly (23, Matatū, Canterbury, new cap)
Ruahei Demant (27, Blues, Auckland, 26) – Co-Captain

Amy du Plessis (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 7)
Grace Brooker (23, Matatū, Canterbury, 3)
Kelsey Teneti (20, Waikato, 1)
Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai'i (Sylvia) Brunt (19, Blues, Auckland, 7)

Outside Backs
Ayesha Leti-I'iga (24, Hurricanes Poua, Wellington, 21)
Katelyn Vahaakolo (23, Blues, Auckland, new cap)
Mererangi Paul (24, Chiefs Manawa, Counties Manukau, new cap)
Renee Holmes (23, Matatū, Waikato, 10)
Tenika Willison (25, Chiefs Manawa, Waikato, new cap)

Unavailable for selection due to injury: Awhina Tangen Wainohu (neck), Charmaine McMenamin (concussion), Hazel Tubic (knee), Layla Sae (ankle), Patricia Maliepo (foot), Santo Taumata (knee).
Unavailable for selection due to sabbatical: Ruby Tui.

The first Black Ferns Squad for 2023 was fittingly named today at Hamilton Girls’ High School, the former High School of Black Ferns Co-Captain Kennedy Simon, rookie Tenika Willison and Kelsey Teneti who returns to the fifteens format following a successful season with the Black Ferns Sevens.

Ruahei Demant (Te Whanau a Apanui, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa) and Kennedy Simon (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Māhanga) were inspirational in their leadership of the Black Ferns throughout last year’s campaign, Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting has once again appointed the duo to lead the new squad.

“Ruahei and Kennedy, are inspiring wāhine and complement one another with their leadership style. Their trust, clear communication and leading actions provides us with a strong platform to continue to build as a team.”

2023 Sky Super Rugby Aupiki champions Matatū are strongly represented with eleven players named in this year’s Black Ferns squad. The Blues and Chiefs Manawa are evenly represented, with seven players from each side and Hurricanes Poua has four notable standouts. Eight Provincial Unions, spanning from Northland to Canterbury, are proudly represented in the 30-player squad. Sylvia Brunt is the youngest of the squad at 19, whilst incoming debutant Kate Henwood is the eldest at 34. With the retirement of Black Ferns legends Kendra Cocksedge and Renee Woodman-Wickliffe, Demant is now the highest capped player with 26 caps to her name.

Following an entertaining Sky Super Rugby Aupiki competition, form has been rewarded with all nine debutants providing eye-catching performances throughout the competition. In the front row Grace Gago, Henwood and Esther Faiaoga-Tilo are named, while Matatū Player of the Year Lucy Jenkins joins the loose forwards. In the backline, halfback Iritana Hohaia and first five-eighth Rosie Kelly receive the call up, while Chiefs Manawa outside backs Tenika Willison and Mererangi Paul will get a chance to show their talent on the international stage. In line to become a dual international, former New Zealand Rugby League Kiwi Fern Katelyn Vahaakolo rounds out the selected debutants.
Speaking of the debutants, Bunting said he, along with Assistant Coaches Steve Jackson, Tony Christie and Mike Delany, have been impressed with how they have taken hold of their opportunity.
“These players have impressed us across Sky Super Rugby Aupiki, but more importantly have joined our Black Ferns environment and taken the opportunity to put their best foot forward to wear the black jersey. We are excited to see their progression this year.”
Grace Brooker returns from injury to be named in the Black Ferns squad for the first time since 2021, alongside Black Ferns Sevens player Kelsey Teneti who makes the transition back to the fifteens format following her debut at last year’s Pacific Four Series.
“Grace has been inspirational in her return to the game. Her energy is contagious, and it has been great to see her back in our Black Ferns environment,” said Bunting.

“Kelsey has been a part of the 2023 Black Ferns Sevens campaign and while she is still putting her hand up for the 2024 Paris Olympics, she is a talented midfielder and is eager to grow her fifteens game with her sights on the 15s Rugby World Cup. Both Cory (Sweeney, Black Ferns Sevens Head Coach) and I are supportive of this and look forward to seeing her on the field developing her game,” added Bunting.
Bunting is focused on using the Pacific Four Series as an opportunity to build depth within the Black Ferns, ensuring they qualify for WXV1.
“We are excited for the 2023 Test schedule with the Pacific Four Series and O’Reilly Cup. While we are playing the Pacific Four Series abroad, we will be challenging ourselves to build our team and encourage our fans to join us on this journey.”
Hamilton will host the Black Ferns for the first time since 2013 for final O’Reilly Cup Test.
“We are looking forward to returning to play the final O’Reilly Cup test in Hamilton. It will be a fantastic opportunity for whānau and fans to see the team in action for the first time on home soil this season.”

Latest News