The USA Women’s National Team last faced New Zealand during the semifinals of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, and 11 Black Ferns who played in Ireland have been named to The Rugby Weekend starting roster this Saturday in Chicago.
By Jackie Finlan
Former USA captain Tiffany Faaee led the Eagles in that match and has special insight into the New Zealand game, having been reared in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
“A lot of New Zealand [union] players come through touch and some have a rugby league background,” Faaee got into the background. “The three codes teach similar fundamentals, and the skills required to play all three compliment each sport when athletes cross over.
“The vision and decision-making to control your opponent with or without the ball is a huge part of the New Zealand game,” the international prop continued. “Going from touch to league, where your opportunities to attack are limited - six touches and six tackles - teams play smart and use each of the six opportunities to get behind the defense and link up to score, or at least gain territory.”
Many of the Eagles are coming out of the Women’s Premier League, which just held its national championship in Georgia last weekend. That means players should be in prime shape for an uptick in competition, and many of the forwards who faced New Zealand at the World Cup are back in Chicago. The backs, however, are entirely different, with the exception of flyhalf Kimber Rozier.
“New Zealand play a very fast game and if you look at how they play during the Farah Palmer Cup, they like to keep the ball alive,” Faaee noted New Zealand’s brand of adventurous play. “Very smart plays creating space wide and then using their passing skills to preserve and utilize their opportunities to get behind the defense.”
Faaee, who is now the head coach of the New York women's team and also will be serving as USA team manager in the near future, described a fluid, somewhat structured game when reflecting on the Black Ferns, which players well versed in their roles and solid in execution.
“Because they look like a threat tight around the ruck and also out wide, it puts pressure on the defense to cover all of the areas and anticipate their next move,” Faaee concluded.
The Rugby Weekend will be the USA’s first outing since the 2017 World Cup and for new coach Rob Cain. The squad will then continue onto England and Ireland, and all of the matches will be viewable via FloRugby.
Black Ferns Lineup To Face USA
1. Phillipa Love (4)
2. Fiao'o Faamausili (54, captain)
3. Aldora Itunu (17)
4. Eloise Blackwell (34)
5. Charmaine Smith (18)
6. Charmaine McMenamin (16)
7. Les Elder (11)
8. Aroha Savage (30)
9. Kendra Cocksedge (44, vc)
10. Ruahei Demant (2)
11. Ayesha Leti-I'iga *
12. Chelsea Alley (17)
13. Stacey Waaka (13)
14. Renee Wickliffe (32)
15. Selica Winiata (33)
16. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (22)
17. Leilani Perese (2)
18. Aleisha-Pearl Nelson (26)
19. Jackie Patea-Fereti (14)
20. Linda Itunu (37)
21. Kristina Sue (12)
22. Krysten Cottrell (2)
23. Monica Tagoai*
Tickets are still available in Chicago! Check out therugbyweekend.com.