Illusive Canterbury winger Martha Mataele will make her debut for the New Zealand women’s team against Australia in the O’Reilly Cup on Saturday.
The Western Force star, who is the wife of former Flying Fijians winger Manasa Mataele, is one of the three debutants named in the Black Ferns final 23 by coaches Allan Bunting, Steve Jackson, Mike Delany and Tony Christie.
The coaches believe that Mataele alongside mobile Auckland loosehead prop Chryss Viliko and notable Manawatū loose forward Layla Sae will be eager to take the field and inject plenty of energy following successful provincial campaigns.
Joining the debutants on the reserves bench will be Bay of Plenty hooker Luka Connor, Fiji-born Waikato’s tighthead prop Tanya Kalounivale, Canterbury loose forward Lucy Jenkins and teammate first five-eighth Rosie Kelly, alongside Taranaki halfback Iritana Hohaia.
This will be the Black Ferns’ first Test on home soil this year, and their final fixture before embarking on the inaugural WXV1 Tournament.
With 27 caps to her name, tenacious Northland lock Charmaine Smith returns for the first time since 2019.
Black Ferns will host the Wallaroos at 4.35pm at FMG Stadium in Waikato on Saturday afternoon.
Black Ferns: Krystal Murray, Georgia Ponsonby, Amy Rule, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Charmaine Smith, Alana Bremner, Kennedy Simon (Co-Captain), Liana Mikaele Tu’u, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Ruahei Demant (Co-Captain), Katelyn Vahaakolo, Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i, Amy du Plessis, Mererangi Paul, Patricia Maliepo.
Reserves: Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko, Tanya Kalounivale, Lucy Jenkins, Layla Sae, Iritana Hohaia, Rosie Kelly, Martha Mataele.