Manawatu Standard

Blues, Chiefs pick squads for landmark match

- Joseph Pearson

The Blues and the Chiefs are hoping the collective disappoint­ment of postponing the women’s Rugby World Cup can be offset by the first Super Rugby clash between their women’s teams.

Both franchises revealed their squads yesterday for the historic meeting at Eden Park on May 1 – the first women’s Super Rugby match which will be the curtainrai­ser for the men’s Super Rugby Aotearoama­tch.

It will be a landmark occasion for the women’s game and could be the first of many if New Zealand Rugby advances plans for a competitio­n (semi-profession­al or profession­al) which could start as early as next year.

Willie Walker (Blues) and Chad Shepherd (Chiefs) have been named the head coaches. Their squads include Black Ferns, though no sevens stars have been considered because of their focus on July’s Tokyo Olympics.

Shepherd, who has worked with the Counties Manukau Heat in the Farah Palmer Cup, said the players will not be paid for their involvemen­t in the fixture because it’s classified as an exhibition match, but he hopes that

can change if a Super Rugby competitio­n gets going in 2022. It could hinge on NZR securing a

$465 million deal with overseas investment company Silver Lake.

‘‘It’s natural progressio­n for the women to shift into Super Rugby after years of Farah Palmer Cup and there’s a real appetite from the players for it to happen next year,’’ Shepherd said.

The world champion Black Ferns, who haven’t played a test in 20 months, are still not guaranteed to play on home soil this year and the Super Rugby match could be the best showcase of those players in either squad.

There are 12 Black Ferns in the Chiefs, including Chelsea Alley and former captain Les Elder, and another nine in the Blues, led by last year’s national skipper, Eloise Blackwell.

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