Props Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Santo Taumata are rewarded for their strong form in the Farah Palmer Cup for Waikato and Bay of Plenty respectively. Tyla Nathan-Wong joins the squad from the Black Ferns Sevens.
“Santo is young, only 19 in fact. She’s really impressed us with her scrummaging. She’s quick off the ground and quick into position on the field. She’s been to a couple of our training runs and made a big impression,” Smith, the Black Ferns director of rugby said.
“Awhina is the same. I see something in her I really like. She’s lethal near the line and strong in the scrums.
“Tyla is one of six sevens girls coming to camp. Most of them are in the backs and our role is to assess their potential against what we’ve seen by our existing players.
“We're playing an exciting brand of rugby so the sevens girls can adapt to that. Can they do it quickly enough, is the question?”
Nathan-Wong can cover halfback and possibly the wings.
Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and 2019 Black Fern Player of the Year Charmaine McMenamin are recalled. McMenamin has been rampant for the Auckland Storm in the FPC, Subritzky-Nafatali has featured once for Otago this season, but was impressive in last month's Black Ferns trial match in Pukekohe.
“Vic is an experienced player, player of the World Cup at the last tournament. We need to have a good look at her. She’s mercurial, different from the other players with her unique skills. We're really interested in seeing how she goes. We think she’ll enjoy the way we're trying to play.”
The Black Ferns won the Pacific Four series against Australia, USA and Canada in June. They scored 16 tries in three Tests, approaching the game with an eye-catching vibrance.
“We're trying to play more expansively and off the cuff. We think that’s the way to go against the European teams with great structure and a strong set-piece.”
“We don’t want to be too deep or structured. We want to play what’s in front of us, do the obvious quickly, hit holes that are there, and keep the ball alive.
“That’s a big change from what the ladies were used to previously. It’s taking a while to install but we train the way we play and that’s with randomness and moments of difficulty. There are a lot of mistakes at training which I like because you're always learning.”
Waikato loose forward Kennedy Simon has been named co-captain alongside Ruahei Demant. A collective approach to leadership which involves constant player feedback and personal responsibility has been implemented.
Halfback Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu for example has only started one Test, but leads the haka. After a player of the match performance against the USA, she is pressing Kendra Cocksedge and Ariana Bayler hard for their places.
“The Laurie O'Reilly series is personally really important to me, because he's my old mate and he's the guy that got me into coaching in the first place as my mentor,” Smith said.
“These are test matches, so we’ve gotta play well. It’s also an opportunity for those who missed out last time.”
“We're still searching far and wide for our best World Cup team."