Expect Krysten Cottrell to be absent for all three of the Hawke's Bay Tuis rugby team's pre-season fixtures with the best possible excuse ... international duty.
The Bay's sole member of the Black Ferns contracted squad, Cottrell, has been named in a 28-strong squad to prepare for next month's tests against Australia for the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial Trophy. The squad will be reduced to 23 players after a warm-up game of three periods against the Bay of Plenty Volcanix and Auckland Storm in Tauranga on August 11.
With last year's regular starting pivot, Counties-Manukau's Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, unavailable with injury Cottrell has the ideal opportunity to be the starting No 10. But she isn't counting her chickens in the countdown to her Black Ferns debut.
"I'm so stoked to get named. Now I have to make the most of this opportunity. I have to do my thing and be loud," Cottrell said referring to one of her biggest work-ons - increasing the volume when calling the plays.
"I have to try and keep calm, learn everything and take everything on board."
The Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's women's development officer pointed out the Demant sisters, Kiritapu and Ruahei, are also contenders for the No 10 jersey. However if Cottrell misses out on a starting role there's a good chance her versatility, she is also comfortable at fullback and on the wing, will see her in the 23 for the tests.
Cottrell, 26, has already shown Black Ferns head coach Glenn Moore how she can operate under pressure courtesy of a missed plane flight last month.
"The Auckland Airport was closed because of fog so my early flight from Napier to the Black Ferns first training camp of the year was cancelled. I got the next flight and by the time I got there the 50-player camp had been going for half an hour.
"It was quite overwhelming. But I saw what the girls were doing, joined in and it all went quite well," Cottrell recalled.
The tests are scheduled for August 18 and 25 the dates for the Tuis second and third pre-season fixtures against Manawatu and Wellington respectively after the first on August 11. Should everything go to plan for Cottrell on August 11 the Tuis are unlikely to see her until the buildup to the September 1 Farah Palmer Cup opener against Wellington in Napier.
Ironically if Cottrell is away two former Black Ferns, 2006 world champion Amy Williams and three-time world champion Emma Jensen will be used in the pivot role during the pre-season matches. Tuis head coach Steve Woods is thrilled to have secured Auckland-based 2002, 2006 and 2010 world champion Jensen for the season.
"Emma is happy to play halfback or first five-eighth for us which will give us plenty of depth in those key positions," Woods said.
A Central Hawke's Bay College product, Jensen, 40, will play for Hastings Rugby and Sports against top-of-the-table Clive in a Hawke's Bay club game at Farndon Park tomorrow. Cottrell's Taradale team will host Napier Technical at the Tareha Recreational Reserve.
Woods said 36 players will attend the Tuis pre-season camp on August 3 and 4. Woods is happy with the level of interest in the Tuis campaign as well as the talent available to him.
"Our leadership group has been having regular meetings and there is certainly some excitement there," he added.
The Tuis draw for the season is:
August 11 v Taranaki at Ashhurst 1pm (Pre-season); August 18 v Manawatu at Park Island 1pm (Pre-season); August 25 v Wellington at Ashhurst 1pm (Pre-season); September 1 v Wellington at Park Island 1pm; September 8 v Otago in Dunedin; September 15 v Taranaki in New Plymouth; September 22 v North Harbour at Napier's McLean Park 11.35am; September 30 v Tasman at Park Island 12noon; October 6 v Manawatu in Palmerston North 1pm.