Rugby: Black Ferns standout training with Chiefs

By Campbell Burnes

Selica Winiata has her own plan to reach the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup, her second, this August in Ireland.

Part of that involves training with the men, the Chiefs, to be precise.

The 30-year-old Manawatu outside back, on leave this week from her day job as a policewoman in Palmerston North, started on Monday and will be with the franchise until Thursday before joining a Black Ferns training camp in Auckland.

The Chiefs have welcomed Winiata into the fold with open arms as they prepare to face the Bulls in Hamilton on Saturday.

"This year is a big year for the Black Ferns. We've got our trial in May. It was about how I can improve my skillset. I trained with the (Manawatu) Turbos last season and thought that was really helpful for me. I knew Rens (Dave Rennie) from when he was down in Manas and gave him a call. He was more than happy for me to come in.

"They are probably three times the size of me but hey, I want to learn and get better... obviously I'm not going to be stupid about what I do, but a lot of them have been helpful," says Winiata.

While conscious of not peaking too early with her conditioning, Winiata is keen to sharpen her skills, especially under the high ball. Wayne Smith is back working with the Chiefs this week and will help in that regard.

Rennie himself, who coached the Manawatu men from 2006-11, was more than happy to accommodate Winiata's request.

"Selica is a Manawatu girl. She gave me a call around Christmas when I was back home. She has aspirations around making that World Cup side. She's a good girl and the guys can learn a bit from her too. She's a special player," says Rennie.

Aaron Cruden, who first played for the Turbos the first year Winiata made the Black Ferns (2008) says the team have enjoyed having her at training.

"It's awesome. I've known Selica for a little while. She's doing great things for women's rugby. I thought it was cool that she used her initiative to call and come up and run around with the guys to try and sharpen up her game. Some of the boys are bit nervous and don't want to get shown up too much by her. She's got electric footwork and speed," Cruden says.

Winiata was the 2016 women's player of the year at the New Zealand Rugby awards in December. From fullback, she scored an astounding nine tries in five tests for the Black Ferns last season, including a quartet against Australia at Eden Park and two braces, against Canada and Ireland. That was a far higher strike-rate than the potent Portia Woodman, who crossed for four tries.

Winiata then showed fine form for Manawatu at the national sevens event in Rotorua, which is why it was a shock, and continues to be a mystifying omission, when she was not picked for the Black Ferns Sevens.

- NZ Herald

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