Australia A named to take on Black Ferns at Oceania Championships

Womens International
by Emma Greenwood

Australia A will rely on a week of training having formed bonds between teammates as they heads into their clash against a Black Ferns development side without an Oceania Championship match under their belt.

Australia's opening game of the tournament, scheduled for Tuesday against Tonga, was cancelled after a member of the Tongan side developed measles symptoms.

The Tongan team has since been withdrawn from the tournament altogether after a decision made by the Fiji Ministry of Health with consultation from the World Health Organisation announced on Thursday.

Wallaroos head coach Dwayne Nestor said the Oceania tournament was a valuable tool to help Australia build depth, especially with a heavier Test program scheduled for next year heading into the 2021 World Cup.

“This tournament gives us an excellent opportunity to expose more players to the wider Wallaroos program and show them the standard required to play Internationally," Nestor said.

"2020 is a very important year for the Wallaroos as we put together the final building blocks for the 2021 Rugby World Cup.

“More game time is crucial to growing our depth and I am looking forward to this tour bringing out more players that can compete at Test level.”

 

Australia A coaching staff member Moana Virtue said being able to test themselves against New Zealand was a great challenge for her players.

"The Black Ferns are the best in the world, they have great skills, depth and knowledge and this team will be no different, it will be a tough game, as it should be," she said.

"We are going to have to work really really hard and mentally dig deep.

"The only way to respect a good side is to compete in every aspect of the game."

The Black Ferns beat Fiji 53-0 in their tournament opener on Monday.

Black Ferns coach Wayne Maxwell has named two debutants to take on Australia in Lautoka, while there will be plenty of fresh faces for Australia A.

Brumbies forward Michaela Leonard will captain the side which includes players who have turned out for the Wallaroos, as well as international newcomers.

Meanwhile, the Tongan team will be quarantined for 18 days, until December 4 to reduce the possibility of an outbreak of the disease.

Oceania Rugby executive member Cathy Wong said in a statement the health and safety of the team and the general public was the uttermost priority for everyone involved.

 

"The decision to withdraw Tonga from the remaining rounds of the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championships in 2019 was a collaborative decision between all parties in the best interest of player welfare and public health,” Wong said.

“Public safety and player welfare dictate all our decisions on any given day and today is one of those days,” she said.

An announcement will be made by World Rugby on Tonga's status for the 2021 World Cup given the Oceania Championship is a qualification event.

Given Australia and New Zealand have already qualified, Australia A and the Black Ferns Development side will play round matches only in Fiji.

Australia A will take on the Black Ferns Development side on Friday, November 22, kicking off at 12.30pm AEDT at Churchill Park in Lautoka. Fiji, with the match LIVE @oceaniarugby Twitter.

TEAMS

Australia A to play Black Ferns Development: 1 Toa Filimoehala, 2 Averyl Mitchell, 3 Christina Sekona, 4 Michaela Leonard C, 5 Sera Naiqama, 6 Kirby Sefo, 7 Fi Jones, 8 Piper Duck, 9 Georgia Cormick, 10 Arabella Mckenzie, 11 Alana Elisaia, 12 Georgina Friedrichs, 13 Kennedy Cherrington, 14 Maya Stewart, 15 Courtney Hodder. Reserves: 16 Tasmin Sheppard, 17 Bree-Anna Cheatham, 18 Eva Karpani, 19 Tiarah Minns, 20 Grace Kemp, 21 Remi Wilton, 22 Zahara Temara, 23 Sammie Wood.

Black Ferns to play Australia: 1 Angel Mulu, 2 Luka Connor, 3 Leilani Perese, 4 Chelsea Bremner, 5 Kelsie Wills, 6 Ilisapeta Molia, 7 Kennedy Simon, 8 Pia Tapsell, 9 Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu C, 10 Hazel Tubic, 11 Langi Veainu, 12 Kilisitina Moata'ane, 13 Grace Brooker, 14 Natahlia Moors, 15 Olivia McGoverne. Reserves: 16 Forne Burkin, 17 Eilis Doyle, 18 Amy Rule, 19 Alana Bremner, 20 Joanna Fanene, 21 Melanie Puckett, 22 Amanda Rasch, 23 Martha Lolohea.