Hauraki Herald

Showcase for women’s rugby

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It’s a ground-breaking year for women’s rugby and it all kicks off in Taupō this weekend.

The inaugural season of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki will see the country’s leading and emerging talent come together in four teams; Blues, Chiefs Manawa, Hurricanes Poua andMatatū.

New Zealand Rugby has deemed the competitio­n a key component in the Black Ferns build-up to the Rugby World Cup, which will be hosted in New Zealand later this year.

One of the country’s most decorated players, Black Ferns sevens captain Sarah Hirini, was last week named captain the Hurricanes Poua team.

Hirini was named New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year last year, winning the Kelvin R Tremain Award, after captaining the Black Ferns sevens team to Olympic gold.

‘‘Playing for the Hurricanes Poua is a dream come true,’’ she says. ‘‘I’m so grateful to play for the region I grew up in and the club I’ve supported for a very long time, alongside some really talented women. We get to represent our provinces so we would love for the region to get behind us and support us.’’

‘‘Playing for the Hurricanes Poua is a dream come true. I’m so grateful to play for the region I grew up in and the club I’ve supported for a very long time.’’ Sarah Hirini, Hurricanes Poua captain

Black Ferns captain Les Elder – another influentia­l figure in the women’s game – will also take a leadership role in Aupiki, having been named to captain the Chiefs Manawa. Elder captained the Chiefs in their oneoff fixture against the Blues last year and has led the Black Ferns since 2019.

‘‘When I was told I was going to be captain of the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa team I was really honoured. I’m really fortunate to have such an awesome group of women behind me and a great management team as well. We’ll be doing it together,’’ Elder says.

Seven members of the Black Ferns sevens team that won Olympic gold have committed to Sky Super Rugby Aupiki: Tyla Nathan-Wong and Theresa Fitzpatric­k will turn out for the Blues, Hirini for Hurricanes Poua, and Kelly Brazier, Stacey Fluhler, Portia Woodman and Ruby Tui will don the Chiefs Manawa colours.

The South Island’s Matatū team has two internatio­nal players in their ranks, with Wallaroos Michaela Leonard and ArabellaMc­Kenzie.

The competitio­n has been shifted to Taupō and the teams are set to operate in bubbles with the hope to avoid the current Covid-19 outbreak.

This article is published in associatio­n with NZRugby as part of a commercial arrangemen­t between Stuff and NZRugby.

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