A talent-laden Blues women's rugby squad, that includes a plentiful posse of Black Ferns internationals and young talent, has been named for the historic encounter against the Chiefs in Auckland next month.
The first women's rugby clash between the Super clubs is part of a double-header with the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa men's match-up between the Blues and Chiefs on Saturday, May 1, at Eden Park.
New Auckland Storm women's coach Willie Walker will guide the Blues side with help from Northland provincial coach Cheryl Smith and the legendary Anna Richards, a four-time World Cup winner and member of the IRB Hall of Fame.
The Blues women will be led by Black Ferns captain Eloise Blackwell and supported by the international experience of Auckland's Ruahei Demant, Charmaine McMenamin, Aldora Itunu, Natahlia Moors, Aleisha Nelson, Saphire Abraham, Cristo Tofa and Northland's TK Ngata Aerengamate.
The squad includes former Black Ferns Sevens player Hayley Hutana (North Harbour), and Black Fern squad members Patricia Maleipo, Lisa Molia and Krystal Murray.
The side has a number of emerging stars including Sylvia Brunt, Luisa Togotogorua, Maia Roos, Princess Elliot and Liana Mikaele-Tu'u.
Walker said there were a number of other rising talents that they could not fit into the squad for this match.
"It's great to be able to participate in this first women's game between Super Rugby teams," Walker said.
"The growth of women's rugby around the world has been remarkable and while New Zealand has led the way in terms of the development of players, we are now playing a bit of catch-up with the professional game.
"This is a great opportunity to further push the profile of the women's game with New Zealand to host the Rugby World Cup in this country next year. Hopefully, this match will help push national selections for some players and further raise the profile of women's rugby in New Zealand.
"Hopefully this can lead to a fulltime professional competition next year and develop a pathway for our young players. It's massively exciting and a privilege to be part of."
The Blues women will not come together until the week of the game, with several training runs planned ahead of the historic clash.
Chiefs Women's head coach Chad Shepherd has, meanwhile, assembled a strong and experienced squad, featuring 12 Black Ferns and a formidable group of rising talent from across the region.
"We are exceptionally excited for the opportunity to take on the Blues Women at Eden Park in under a month's time," Shepherd said. "As a coaching group we are really pleased with the squad we have selected for this historic occasion.
"We have an exciting balance of youth and experience; our Black Ferns players provide great leadership among an exciting group of young talented players who have broken onto the scene during last year's Farah Palmer Cup."
Blues Women's squad:
Forwards: Saphire Abraham (Auckland), Eloise Blackwell (Auckland), Aldora Itunu (Auckland), Shannon Leota (Auckland), Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland), Liana Mikaele-Tu'u (Auckland), Lisa Molia (Auckland), Aleisha Nelson (Auckland), Cilia-Marie Po'e (Auckland), Maia Roos (Auckland), Cristo Tofa (Auckland), Tenaija Fletcher (North Harbour), Kate Williams (North Harbour), Krystal Murray (Northland), TK Ngata Aerengamate (Northland).
Backs: Sylvia Brunt (Auckland), Moana Cook (Auckland), Ruahei Demant (Auckland), Princess Elliot (Auckland), Patricia Maleipo (Auckland), Natahlia Moors (Auckland), Daynah Nankivell (Auckland), Luisa Togotogorua (Auckland), Hayley Hutana (North Harbour), Tyler Nankivell (Northland) Stacey Tupe (Northland).
Head coach: Willie Walker.
Assistants: Cheryl Smith, Anna Richards.
Chiefs Women's squad:
Angel Mulu (Bay of Plenty), Ariana Bayler (Waikato), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (Counties Manukau), Chelsea Alley (Waikato), Chyna Hohepa (Waikato), Emily Kitson (Counties Manukau), Grace Houpapa-Barrett (Waikato), Harono Te Iringa (Counties Manukau), Hazel Tubic (Counties Manukau), Iritana Hohiaia (Taranaki), JayJay Taylor (Bay of Plenty), Kelsey Teneti (Waikato), Kelsie Wills (Bay of Plenty), Kendra Reynolds (Bay of Plenty, Kennedy Simon (Waikato), Langi Veainu (Counties Manukau), Les Elder (Bay of Plenty), Luka Connor (Bay of Plenty), Mia Anderson (Waikato), Ngatokotoru Arakua (Counties Manukau), Paige Neilson (Taranaki), Pia Tapsell (Bay of Plenty), Rebecca Burch (Counties Manukau), Renee Holmes (Waikato), Shyanne Thompson (Counties Manukau), Stephanie Lualua (Waikato), Tachelle Gardiner (Taranaki), Tanya Kalounivale (Waikato), Waikohika Flesher (Counties Manukau)
Head coach: Chad Shepherd (Counties Manukau)
Assistants: Mike Rogers (Bay of Plenty), Latoya Mason (Taranaki), James Semple (Waikato)