Au revoir: Black Ferns flanker to re­tire af­ter France tests

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Olivia Cald­well

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.

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