Au revoir: Black Ferns flanker to retire after France tests
Black Ferns flanker Linda Itunu will retire following the Black Ferns series against France. The 37-test veteran will come off the bench in the first test in Toulon tomorrow morning (NZ time).
Although she is still loving her rugby and feeling fit, the 33-year-old wants to end her rugby career on a high note before joining the police.
‘‘To be honest I am one of the old ones in the team, I am pretty much part of the furniture now,’’ she said.
‘‘I am happy with what I have achieved in rugby, so I will be hanging up the boots after this year.’’
That means the two-test series will be a Black Ferns swansong playing alongside her little sister, Aldoro
Itunu. The pair have a tradition that if one isn’t in the starting XV, they embrace in a hug after the haka. She says while they have their trials off the field, as all good sisters do, they are the best of mates when touring.
‘‘It’s the cherry on top. Making the team is awesome, but having your sister there is awesome. You know you grow up together and have little fights here and there. In a team environment you have to get on with each other.
‘‘It’s pretty special and I am proud every time I see her out on the field.’’
Linda Itunu first debuted for the Black Ferns back in 2003, when she was just 18, and is a three-time Women’s Rugby World Cup winner (2006, 2010 and 2017).
Just seven women have played more than her 34 tests for the Black Ferns.
Itunu also made 11 tournament appearances for the Black Ferns Sevens from 2009-14.
Coach Glenn Moore has named one debutant on the bench – flanker Marcelle Parkes from Wellington – while Hawke’s Bay’s Krysten Cottrell will start at firstfive, with Ruahei Demant moved to second-five.
Moore said 20-year-old Parkes had been going from strength to strength in training and was ready to make her mark on the big stage.
‘‘Marcelle is like a sponge. She soaks up everything the coaches and her teammates teach her, and puts it into practice.
‘‘More than that, she studies the game in her own time and does a lot of work to make sure she thoroughly understands her role.
‘‘We’ve seen a lot of growth in Marcelle since she’s been in the Black Ferns environment. We think this test match is the right opportunity for her, and we’ll be expecting good things.’’
Kickoff is 9am tomorrow.
After playing in four World Cups for the Black Ferns, Linda Itunu is retiring. ‘‘I am happy with what I have achieved in rugby,’’ she said.