The process has started for the Black Ferns as they seek to annex a fifth Rugby World Cup title in August.

A 51-strong training squad has been named and will be part of a regional training programme designed to identify and develop the best players in the country.

In 2016, the Black Ferns were unbeaten in both their home series against Australia, and away series against Canada, England and Ireland.

Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore said the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland and Northern Ireland was the main focus for 2017.

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"We'll be making World Cup selections from this wider training group. With an Olympic medal-winning sevens team and a growing provincial tournament, there's a lot of talent out there and the number of women with the black jersey in their sights is on the rise. We want to make sure we take the strongest squad possible to the World Cup."

The squad features all 2016 Black Ferns and includes Black Ferns Linda Itunu, Justine Lavea, Lesley Ketu and Stacey Waaka who are all returning from injury. Wing Honey Hireme is in, having played for the Kiwi Ferns league side at the NRL Nines on the weekend.

Seasoned halfback Emma Jensen, now 39, is named, as is Tyla Nathan-Wong, who was previously thought to be a sevens specialist. A clutch of contracted Black Ferns Sevens players, including skipper Sarah Goss, are also in the mix.

Black Ferns trials will take place in mid-May. Details of an international home series in June will be announced in the coming weeks.

Black Ferns training squad:

Eloise Blackwell, Fiao'o Fa'amausili, Charlene Gubb, Aldora Itunu, Linda Itunu, Emma Jensen, Charmaine McMenamin, Aleisha Nelson, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Kiritapu Demant, Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland), Luke Connor, Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty), Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox, Kendra Cocksedge, Jessie Hansen, Pip Love (Canterbury), Justine Lavea, Rawinia Everitt, Aotearoa (Katie) Mata'u, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Aroha Savage, Renee Wickliffe, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Arihiana Marino, Sharnita Woodman, Badin-Lee Munro-Smith, Hazel Tubic, Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau), Kristina Sue, Janna Vaughan, Sarah Goss, Selica Winiata, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Crystal Mayes (Manawatu), Becky Wood, Chelsea Alley, Charmaine Smith, Emma Iversen (North Harbour), Angie Sisifa, Greer Muir (Otago), Ariana Bayler, Sosoli Talawadua, Toka Natua, Carl Hohepa, Honey Hireme, Lesley Ketu, Stacey Waaka (Waikato), Jackie Fereti, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Ayesha Leti-Liga (Wellington)