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Three players to make Black Ferns debut

Black Ferns Pacific Four Series rugby
The Black Ferns in training last month in preparation for the Pacific Four Series. PHOTO: DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Three new names have been called up for the Black Ferns' first team of the year to play the United States on Saturday in Hamilton.


Lock Maama Mo'onia Vaipulu, halfback Maia Joseph and first-five Hannah King are in the matchday 23 for the opening match of the Pacific Four Series.


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Joseph, the daughter of former All Blacks player and former Japan coach Jamie Joseph, will start, as will Vaipulu, with King set to make her debut from the bench.


Black Ferns head coach Allan Bunting was enthusiastic about the selection, saying the trio have earned their place


"Each of these ladies have continued to impress us since joining the Black Ferns squad. They have worked diligently and it's awesome to be able to reward them with this opportunity and enjoy the occasion.


"It will be a special moment for them and their whānau and one they should be proud of. We are all excited for them and have their backs this weekend."


Props Kate Henwood and Tanya Kalounivale combine with starting hooker Georgia Ponsonby in the front row, with the Super Rugby Aupiki-winning Blues locking pair of Maiakawanakaulani Roos and Vaipulu.



In the loose forwards, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u is at blindside, Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon starts at openside and Layla Sae packs down at No 8.


In the backs, Joseph and Black Ferns co-captain and first-five Ruahei Demant have been named as the starting halves combination.


Last year's pairing of Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis will cover the midfield at second-five with Katelyn Vahaakolo and Ruby Tui on the wings and Mererangi Paul at fullback.


In the reserves, a replacement front row of Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko and Amy Rule will be a come off the bench, while experienced lock Charmaine Smith and returning Black Ferns loose forward Kaipo Olsen-Baker will provide forwards cover


Halfback Iritana Hohaia, King and playmaker Patricia Maliepo will be eager to impress off the bench when given the opportunity.


BLACK FERNS: Mererangi Paul, Ruby Tui, Amy du Plessis, Sylvia Brunt, Katelyn Vahaakolo, Ruahie Demant (co-capt), Maia Joseph*, Layla Sae, Kennedy Simon (co-capt), Liana Mikaele Tu'u, Maama Mo'onia Vaipulu*, Maia Roos, Tanya Kalounivale, Georgia Ponsonby, Kate Henwood. Reserves: Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko, Amy Rule, Charmaine Smith, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Iritana Hohaia, Hannah King*, Patrica Maliepo


* Denotes Black Ferns debut


Unavailable: Renee Holmes

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