Star trio Portia Woodman, Kelly Brazier and Sarah Goss are missing from the Black Ferns squad named for two Tests against Australia next month.
Two Sevens Rugby World Cup players and eight new caps have been named, but three of the Black Ferns mainstays made themselves unavailable for selection to concentrate on their Black Ferns Sevens commitments.
Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore said he and New Zealand sevens coach Allan Bunting were both on board with the players reasoning for not being available for the trans-Tasman series.
“Portia [Woodman], Sarah [Goss] and Kelly [Brazier] have decided to concentrate on their World Cup recovery and preparation for Tokyo for the time being and we all support what is best for them.”
Woodman was named the women’s player of the year at last year’s World Rugby Awards.
Experienced captain Fiao’o Faamausili will lead the young squad. Selica Winiata (31) and Kendra Cocksedge (42) have been named as co-vice captains.
Moore has ushered in four new backs and four new forwards to the 28-strong squad to play in matches that will anchor two huge double headers with the All Blacks’ Bledisloe Cup matches against Australia in Sydney and Auckland.
The new caps are Krysten Cottrell, Ruahei Demant, Alena Saili, and Monica Tagoa’i in the backs, and Joanah Ngan-Woo, Marcelle Parkes, Leilani Perese and Cristo Tofa in the forwards.
Moore said the depth of his squad meant the selectors would have some tough decisions to make ahead of the Test season.
“We have a great mix of youth and experience with 17 players from the 2017 World Cup winning squad and eight very exciting newcomers. They have been working hard in their clubs and provinces to secure a spot in this squad and we’ve seen some real progress in skill level and fitness since last year’s World Cup. The motivation to be selected has been obvious.”
Parkes’ selection completes a meteoric rise for the 20-year-old. Parkes had already represented New Zealand in softball and netball before her impressive Sevens debut for Wellington led to her securing a Black Ferns contract earlier this year.
“Marcelle is an exceptional athlete and deserves her spot. We’re looking forward to seeing what she can achieve in a Black Ferns jersey. She is definitely one to watch,” Moore said.
Ruahei joins her younger sister Kiritapu in the squad after overcoming a series of serious knee injuries. Kiritapu debuted for the Black Ferns in 2015.
The Demant siblings join the Itunu sisters (Aldora and Linda) in the line-up, and will be the fourth set of sisters to represent the Black Ferns.
Selectors named two 2018 Sevens Rugby World Cup players, in Stacey Waaka and Theresa Fitzpatrick, as well as Alena Saili, who is also currently contracted in the Black Ferns Sevens wider squad.
The 2018 squad:
Eloise Blackwell, Les Elder (nee Ketu), Fiao’o Faamausili, Aldora Itunu, Linda Itunu, Pip Love, Charmaine McMenamin, Aleisha Nelson, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Marcelle Parkes,
Jackie Patea-Fereti, Leilani Perese, Aroha Savage, Charmaine Smith, Cristo Tofa
Chelsea Alley, Kendra Cocksedge, Krysten Cottrell, Kiritapu Demant, Ruahei Demant, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Alena Saili, Kristina Sue, Monica Tagoa’i, Stacey Waaka, Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata