Home Rugby News Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman to start on return to Black Ferns,...

Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman to start on return to Black Ferns, Stacey Fluhler on the bench


Former Black Ferns skipper Farah Palmer announces the 32-strong New Zealand squad in Auckland.

What: Black Ferns v Japan. Where: Eden Park, Auckland. When: Saturday, September 24, 4:30pm. Live coverage: Sky Sport 1, live updates on Stuff.

Sevens stars Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman are straight into the Black Ferns team for their final test before the Rugby World Cup opener at Eden Park in two weeks.

As is outside back Stacey Fluhler, albeit from the bench, with Hirini starting at openside flanker and Woodman on the right wing in Auckland on Saturday.

The trio were 15s World Cup winners with the Black Ferns in 2017.

David Rogers/Getty Images

Portia Woodman and Sarah Hirini with the 2017 World Cup trophy.

They joined the squad after the Sevens World Cup this month in Cape Town when the Black Ferns sevens finished with silver, losing the final to Australia.

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Hirini played 10 tests in 2016 and 2017 but has since led the Black Ferns sevens for much of their success, culminating in gold at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

It will be Hirini’s first test since the 2017 World Cup final win over England in Belfast, while Woodman and Fluhler are back after playing on last year’s northern tour.

Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith said they are world-class and welcomed their return.

“They are hugely professional in terms of their preparation and they came in knowing all the plays so I’m confident they’ve done the homework and they deserve an opportunity,” Smith said.

Woodman comes into the side for Ayesha Leti-I’iga, moving Ruby Tui to the left wing for the team’s first test against Japan and their first at Eden Park since 2019.

Gallo Images/Getty Images

Stacey Fluhler, pictured scoring at the Sevens World Cup, will get her chance from the bench.

Smith said destructive winger Leti-I’iga is being rested after starting all five tests this season, scoring seven tries.

“She was the best player in the [Pacific Four Series] in June, but you’ve

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