Hawke's Bay Tuis women's rugby coach Steve Woods was spot on when he suggested his team's depth will face a severe test today.
The Tuis will take on the Manawatu Cyclones in their second pre-season outing of the season at Napier's Park Island without first five-eighth Krysten Cottrell who is on Black Ferns duty across the Tasman. Also unavailable are captain and 2006 world champion Black Fern Amy Williams, No 8 Gemma Woods, fullback Shaylee Tipiwai and experienced midfield back Te Maari MacGregor who are all out of town at a wedding.
"It will be a good opportunity for some of the others. Apart from Emma [40-year-old three-time world champion Black Fern Jensen] at halfback I've got a young backline," Woods said.
He is starting Clive midfield back Danielle Pomare-MacKay at first five-eighth and he said this will help improve her skill set. Taradale midfield back Natasha Greville has returned from injury and will start at second five-eighth inside Clive utility Niamh Jefferson who moves from the flanker role to help compensate for the absence of the experienced Clive trio of MacGregor, Williams and Tipiwai.
Napier Technical's Tori Iosefo and and Clive's Lara Kendrick will start on the wings and Taradale's Kaitlin Bates will start at fullback. Woods pointed out versatile utility back Felicity Powdrell returns from the United States today but he didn't want to play her after such a long trip and Powdrell will have next week's final pre-season outing against Wellington Pride in Ashhurst to push her case for a starting berth in the following weekend's Farah Palmer Cup first-round encounter against the Pride in Napier.
Former Tuis player-coach Chanel Huddleston, who was outstanding for the Tuis at centre and loosie during last weekend's pre-season win against Taranaki, will captain the Tuis from the openside flanker role today.