The Black Ferns' tilt at a fifth World Cup title will have a Northland feel to it with three squad members coming from the north.

Prop Aleisha Nelson, lock Charmaine Smith and outside back Portia Woodman have all been selected as part of the 28-strong squad heading to Ireland on August 1.

Kaihu Valley's Nelson is known for her powerful scrummaging and is one of the more experienced players after making her debut in 2013.

Smith made her Black Ferns debut in 2015 and has become an important member of the forward pack.


Kaikohe-raised Woodman is well known for her try scoring exploits out wide as well as the silver medal she received as part of the New Zealand sevens side that competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Stung by the defeat to England last month - just their second home reverse - the Black Ferns are now full speed ahead in the preparations for next month's Rugby World Cup in Ireland.

Lock Charmaine Smith has impressed with her lineout skills and athleticism in her burgeoning Black Ferns career. Photo/
Lock Charmaine Smith has impressed with her lineout skills and athleticism in her burgeoning Black Ferns career. Photo/

Coach Glenn Moore has named a 16-12 split heavy on versatility, experience and firepower.

The 29-21 loss to England in Rotorua, following wins over Canada and Australia, will galvanise the team and ensure zero complacency as they seek a fifth WRWC title. There are 12 returning from the 2014 group that placed fifth, so they will have extra motivation.

"We have to improve our accuracy and one-on-one defence after that England game," says Moore.

"They scored two tries while we were down to 14 players due to their driving mauls."

He also identified discipline in general - they copped four yellow cards in the June series - and the need to better pressure opposition kickers as work-ons.

"We are confident we have the weaponry in our squad and this was a good shot in the pants for us," Moore adds.

There were some tight selection calls, with the likes of prop Pip Love, loosies Angie Sisifa and Justine Lavea, and outside backs Honey Hireme and Janna Vaughan cut from the June series. In comes promising 20-year-old prop Aotearoa "Katie" Mata'u, who played five tests last season, and utility back Hazel Tubic.

"Hazel was in the 28 but carried an injury through that June window. We thought we might be able to play her in the last game, but decided to sit her out. We had a conditioning programme window for Katie and she came through that well," Moore says.

There are some multi-skilled players in the squad, of necessity when playing five games in a tight 17-day window. There are five props, six or even seven who can play in the loose forwards, and then the likes of Tubic and Kelly Brazier who can operate in up to three backline positions.

"Part of that thinking is that we have four-day turnarounds and to get recovery is difficult. The loose forwards get beaten up so [having more] gives us versatility."

2017 Women's Rugby World Cup Black Ferns Pool Matches

August 10 - Black Ferns v Wales (kick-off 1.45am NZT)
August 13 - Black Ferns v Hong Kong (kick-off 11pm NZT)
August 18 - Black Ferns v Canada (kick-off 4.15am NZT)

Black Ferns WRWC squad:
Backs: Selica Winiata, Hazel Tubic, Portia Woodman, Carla Hohepa, Renee Wickliffe, Stacey Waaka, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Chelsea Alley, Kelly Brazier, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Kendra Cocksedge, Kristina Sue.

Forwards: Linda Itunu, Aroha Savage, Sarah Goss, Rawinia Everitt, Charmaine McMenamin, Lesley Ketu, Charmaine Smith, Eloise Blackwell, Becky Wood, Aldora Itunu, Aleisha Nelson, Sosoli Talawadua, Aotearoa "Katie" Mata'u, Toka Natua, Fiao'o Fa'amausili (c), Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate.