Wayne Smith eyes seven stars to tip Black Ferns for World Cup

Commonwealth Games bronze medalists Tila Nathan Wong and Teresa Fitzpatrick in the Black Ferns 15s squad have been selected to play for Australia in two Tests this month.

The duo are good prospects for the squad for the World Cup that kicks off in New Zealand in October, with four other players from the Black Ferns Sevens training with the squad and potentially that squad as well.

This quartet was not named by rugby manager Wayne Smith of the Black Ferns, but the leader of the seven would likely be Sarah Herini, Portia Woodman, Stacey Fluehler and Kelly Brazier.

Robbie Toei, an Olympic gold medalist who did not make the Commonwealth Games squad, is already an important part of Smith’s team having starred during the recent Pacific Four Series, which Black Fern won.

One of the three new fixtures, Nathan Wong, and Fitzpatrick will be available for the first Test against Australia in Christchurch on August 20 and possibly a return test at the Adelaide Oval a week later, with the other four not being available until after the Sevens World Cup in South Africa which begins on September 9.

“We have some important decisions in this area,” Smith said after announcing his 33-man squad.

“Going to sevens to 15 seconds isn’t that easy and I know from the time I’ve been in the game…it takes a while to get used to the different influences in the game – to be more direct and straightforward…make more dominant interventions.”

Read more: The Black Ferns’ attacking weapons make it the most exciting ticket in town

However, a possible addition of players from the shorter version of the game could help Smith’s team achieve what they believe will be the point of difference for the World Cup.

“[An] Off the cuff, expansive [game] “We think that’s how we should play against teams in the Northern Hemisphere that have a great structure, have a great professional formation and are strong up front,” Smith said.

“We know they are outstanding people and rugby players. Most of them are in their backs. Our role is to assess their potential on the field against our current players.”

Les Elder and Eloise Blackwell have been left out of the squad, with quarterback Ruahei Demant, who led the Black Ferns to their Pacific Four Series win in June, joining the Wallaroos Series captain by Waikato losing striker Kennedy Simon.

Simon was the MVP of the 2021 Black Fires Championship and missed the latest streak with a knee injury, but he will add plenty of firepower to the O’Reilly Cup squad.

Loose striker Kennedy Simon returned from injury to lead the Black Ferns alongside co-captain Rohi Demant.

Smith said the return of Charmaine McMenamin and World Cup winner Victoria Sopritzky-Navatali adds experience and depth to the Black Ferns squad.

“Charmaine brings a huge rate of work and a sage mind, and it was her FPC form that decided her choice. She recovered from what could have been a career-end injury, so we are excited to have her on the team.

“Vic is not your average player – she’s mercurial. She’s back after a long hiatus and she’s done incredibly well to get to that point, so having her back in the squad is fantastic.”

The two-game test series holds special significance for Smith, and is named after his mentor and former friend Laurie O’Reilly.

“Laurie has inspired me to become a coach and I feel really fortunate to have had 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 very important matches from a historical, emotional perspective and as a World Cup selection tool,” he said.

The black fern squad is (in parentheses, age, super club, county, test caps);


Luca Connor (25, Bay of Plenty, 6)

Natalie Delamere (25, Mattato, Bay of Plenty, 1)

Georgia Ponsonby (22 years old, Matato, Canterbury, 5 years old)


Tanya Kalonivali (23 years old, Waikato, 2)

Babe Love (32, Mattato, Canterbury, 17)

Crystal Murray (29, Blues, Northland, 3)

Amy Rolle (22, Mattato, Canterbury, 5)

Ohina Tangin Wenho (24, Chiefs, Waikato, new hat)

Santo Tomata (19, bosses, Bay of Plenty, new hat)


Chelsea Bremner (27, Mattato, Canterbury, 3)

Joanna Ngan Wu (26, Hurricanes, Wellington, 8)

Mayakawanakulani Ross (21, Blues, Oakland, 6)

loose attackers

Alana Bremner (25 years old, Matato, Canterbury, 6 years old)

Tavito Lafayle (21, Blues, Auckland, 2)

Charmaine McMenamin (32, Blues, Oakland, 25)

Kaibo Olsen Baker (19, Cyclones, Manawatu, 2)

Kendra Reynolds (29, Mattato, Bay of Plenty, 3)

Kennedy Simon (25 years old, Waikato, 8 years old)


Ariana Byler (25 years old, Waikato, 4 years old)

Kendra Coxedge (34, Mattato, Canterbury, 60)

Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (30, Chiefs, County Manukau, 8)

inside their back

Sylvia Brant, 18, Auckland, 2)

Rohi Dimant (27, Blues, Auckland, 18)

Aimee de Plessis (23, Matato, Canterbury, 2)

Theresa Fitzpatrick (27, Blues, Auckland, 11)

Chelsea Semple (29, Waikato, 29).

Victoria Sobritsky-Navatali (30 years old, Otago, 19 years old)

Hazel Tubic (31, Chiefs, County Manukau, 14)

their outer appearance

Renee Holmes (22 years old, Matato, Waikato, 3 years old)

Aisha Leite-Ega (23, Hurricanes, Wellington, 15)

Tila Nathan Wong (28, blues, Northland, new hat)

Grace Steinmetz (24, Mattato, Canterbury, 0)

Ruby Toei (30 years old, Manukau District, 2 years old)

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