NEW ZEALAND – Black Ferns Sevens star Ruby Tui is in line for a test debut after being named in the first Black Ferns squad of the year on Wednesday.
Tui has been included in a 31-strong squad named by the new coaching staff comprised of Wayne Smith, Whitney Hansen and Wesley Clarke for next month’s Pacific Four Series against Australia, the USA and Canada.
With Olympic gold and silver medals, a Commonwealth Games gold medal, a Sevens World Cup and multiple World Sevens Series titles to her name, Tui brings with her a wealth of experience from the sevens arena to the XVs game.
Joining Tui among that cohort includes hooker Natalie Delamore, props Lucy Anderson, Tanya Kalounivale and Angel Mulu, and loose forwards Tafito Lafaele and Kaipo Olsen-Baker.
The squad will be captained experienced first-five Ruahei Demant, but is without three key figures who have been culled by Smith, Hansen and Clarke.
Those players are flanker Les Elder, who captained the side in last year’s ill-fated tour of England and France, lock Eloise Blackwell and wing Renee Wickliffe.
Smith, the former All Blacks coach who has joined the Black Ferns as director of rugby, said in a statement that the trio have missed selection in preserve them for the New Zealand-hosted World Cup later this year.
“These are players that have had a significant impact on the Black Ferns team for a long time. We want them to be in the best possible condition to be selected for Rugby World Cup,” Smith said.
Smith added that Demant stands as an ideal candidate to lead the squad in next month’s series, which will see the Black Ferns play in Tauranga, Auckland and Whangarei.
“Lu [Demant] has the trust from this group. She is a clear, specific communicator and we see this as a great opportunity to grow her leadership,” he said.