A talent-laden nib Blues women’s rugby squad, that includes a plentiful posse of Black Fern internationals and thrilling young players, have been named today for the historic encounter against the Waitomo Chiefs Women 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 1 May at Eden Park.
New Auckland Storm women’s coach, Willie Walker, will guide the nib Blues side with help from Northland FPC coach Cheryl Smith and the legendary Anna Richards, a four-time Rugby World Cup winner and member of the IRB Hall of Fame.
The nib Blues women will be led by Black Ferns captain Eloise Blackwell and supported by the international experience of Ruahei Demant, Charmaine McMenamin, Aldora Itunu, Natahlia Moors, Aleisha Nelson, Saphire Abraham and Cristo Tofa (all Auckland) 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,” said Walker
“The growth of women’s rugby around the world has been remarkable and while New Zealand has led the way in terms of 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 nib Blues women will not come together until the week of the game with several training runs planned ahead of the historic clash.
The nib Blues Women’s squad is:
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.