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Sevens star Ruby Tui named in first Black Ferns squad of the year ahead of Rugby World Cup

The Black Ferns have revealed their first squad of the year ahead of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October and November.

It’s the first time the women’s World Cup will be held in Aotearoa.

The 31-strong squad picked by Wayne Smith, who was appointed the Black Ferns’ director of rugby to replace departing coach Glenn Moore, for next month’s Pacific Four Series was announced in Auckland on Wednesday.

Wayne Smith, centre, addresses Black Ferns players at a training session in Christchurch (FILE PHOTO).

Martin Hunter/PHOTOSPORT

Wayne Smith, centre, addresses Black Ferns players at a training session in Christchurch (FILE PHOTO).

Sevens star Ruby Tui was one of 10 uncapped players, along with hooker Natalie Delamere, props Lucy Anderson, Tanya Kalounivale and Angel Mulu, lock Chelsea Bremner, loose forwards Tafito Lafaele and Kaipo Olsen-Baker, and backs Amy du Plessis and Grace Steinmetz.

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Stalwarts Les Elder and Eloise Blackwell, as well as Renee Wickliffe, were not included and the first five-eighth Ruahei Demant was named the new captain.

“Lu [Ruahei] has the trust from this group. She is a clear, specific communicator and we see this as a great opportunity to grow her leadership from her, ”Smith said in a statement

Elder, an openside flanker, was the captain on last year’s northern tour when the Black Ferns lost by record margins in four tests against England and France.

She also skipped the Chiefs to the first Super Rugby Aupiki title in March but has not been picked among their loose forwards.

Ruahei Demant is the Black Ferns skipper.

Michael Bradley/Getty Images

Ruahei Demant is the Black Ferns skipper.

Those unavailabe because of injury are Charmaine McMenamin, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Grace Brooker, Kelsie Wills and Kennedy Simon.

Of the 10 uncapped players, Waikato prop Kalounivale was the only one included from last year’s tour squad, but she didn’t make an appearance in Europe.

Delamere, Anderson, Mulu, Lafaele, Olsen-Baker and Tui have each been selected for the first time.

Tui has been a mainstay in the champion Black Ferns’ sevens team that has won each major tournament since finishing with a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

She was a gold medalist at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and has switched to 15s for a crack at the 15s World Cup squad.

“These players really showed up in Aupiki. They are young, eager and really deserve the chance to have a crack,” Smith said.

Les Elder captained the Black Ferns on last year's northern tour but has not been included.

Michael Bradley/Getty Images

Les Elder captained the Black Ferns on last year’s northern tour but has not been included.

The Black Ferns host the Pacific Four Series and will face Australia, Canada and the United States.

The world champion Kiwis will also play two O’Reilly Cup tests against Australia in August.

It’s been a turbulent start to the year for the Black Ferns after a damning review into the team’s culture was released last month.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson and panel members Phillipa Muir and Tammi Wilson Uluinayau address a press conference into the team’s culture review.

Moore, who led the Black Ferns to their World Cup win in 2017, resigned as coach in the fallout.

Smith heads the new coaching team, with Wesley Clarke and Whitney Hansen the assistants, and World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry has joined in a support role.

The Black Ferns have dominated the game since the first women’s World Cup in 1991, winning five global titles and the last tournament in 2017.

However, they have fallen behind European powerhouses England and France, who are the two favorites for this year’s World Cup.

Their World Cup campaign starts against Australia at Eden Park on October 8.

Black Ferns squad

Hookers: Luka Connor, Natalie Delamere, Georgia Ponsonby.

props: Lucy Anderson, Tanya Kalounivale, Pip Love, Angel Mulu, Krystal Murray, Leilani Perese, Amy Rule.

Locks: Chelsea Bremner, Joanah Ngan Woo, Maiakawanakaukani Roos.

Loose forwards: Alana Bremner, Tafito Lafaele, Liana Mikaele Tu’u, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Kendra Reynolds.

Halfbacks: Ariana Bayler, Kendra Cocksedge, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu.

Inside backs: Ruahei Demant, Amy du Plessis, Carla Hohepa, Patricia Maliepo, Chelsea Semple.

Outside backs: Renee Holmes, Ayesha Leti-I’iga, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Grace Steinmetz, Ruby Tui.

Pacific Four Series

June 6 at Tauranga Domain, Tauranga: Canada vs. United States, 12:15 p.m.; Black Ferns v Australia, 2:45 p.m.

June 12 at Trusts Arena, Auckland: United States vs. Australia, 12:15 p.m.; Black Ferns vs. Canada, 2:45 p.m.

June 18 at Semenoff Stadium, Whangari: Australia vs. Canada, 1:30 p.m.; Black Ferns vs. United States, 4 p.m.

O’Reilly Cup

August 20: Black Ferns v Australia, 7:05pm, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch.

August 27: Black Ferns vs Australia, time TBC, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide.

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