Queensland hooker Liz Patu to lead Wallaroos in Bledisloe battle

The Rugby Championship
by Sarah Friend

Hooker Liz Patu will take the Wallaroos reins for the first time in an historic clash against New Zealand on Saturday.

The Queensland forward is one of the side's most experienced players, debuting for Australia in 2014, and takes the reins from Xvs and Sevens star Shannon Parry.

Patu's appointment is indicative of a new era for the Wallaroos, with some fresh leaders taking over from Parry and long-time skipper Ash Hewson, who retired from international rugby this season.

Patu's 20 Test caps are among the most in the 28-player squad and will be invaluable in a squad that includes 13 debutants.

“It is very exciting, I’m speechless as well. It’s something I didn’t think I was actually going to get but you know things happen.” Patu said.

Although she has some big shoes to fill the 29-year-old won’t be doing it alone, supported by vice-captains Rebecca Clough and Sarah Riordan.

Saturday's stage will be a somewhat familiar one for Riordan, who debuted in Auckland against Black Ferns in 2016.

Liz Patu has been named Wallaroos captain. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“I made my debut at Eden Park in 2016, so I definitely know the pressure that comes with Bledisloe and playing at these big stadiums and big games," she said.

"I’m excited and hopefully we can pass that experience on to the new girls that don’t really know what they’re in for when they’re coming up to the Bledisloe.”

A lot has changed since the Wallaroos faced the Black Ferns back in 2016 and Riordan said the shift in the game of XVs in those two years would only strengthen their performance this weekend.

“I think the Super W really laid a good platform for us coming into Test matches," she said.

 It really makes us play at. Higher level, a better level for longer which we weren’t really exposed to at all before coming into test matches.

"It’s definitely set a really good platform for us and it’s just the next step up that we’ve got to go to, which is still a really big step but were not coming straight from club games. We’re going from state games and competitive good rugby which is really good.

"To have your home support and just playing women’s rugby here in Australia it’s nice to finally get a match at home in front of the home crowd and getting our game out there, it’s exciting, I can’t wait."

Centre Riordan plays for the Australian Defence Force and said the military had given her a lot of assets in the rugby world.

“When it comes to leadership the defence (force) has taught me a lot about leadership and teamwork, so I can implement that here when it comes to rugby and teamwork, on and off the field as well," she said.

The Wallabies host the All Blacks in the first Bledisoe on Saturday August 18, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO, with the Wallaroos taking on the Black Ferns from 5:15pm AEST as well. Buy tickets here.