Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon makes tournament debut for Wales quarter-final

Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon has been named for her Rugby World Cup debut in the do-or-die quarter-final clash with Wales at Whangārei on Saturday.

The loose forward was injured during the team's Laurie O'Reilly Cup series against Australia in August and has been sidelined through the tournament pool stages, but will make her return off the bench, with their title defence on the line.

After rotating his squad through the three matches against Australia, Wales and Scotland, coach Wayne Smith has unveiled perhaps his strongest line-up for the Welsh rematch, with a backline dominated by sevens stars.

Ruby Tui edges Renee Holmes for the fullback spot, allowing Smith to accommodate Stacey Fluhler, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Portia Woodman, along with breakout star Ayesha Leti-I'iga on the wing. 

Black Ferns Sevens captain Saraha Hirini features in a loose-forward trio, alongside Alana Bremner and Liana Mikaele-Tu'u.

Maia Roos has claimed a starting lock position ahead of Joanah Ngan-Woo, while Phillipa Love, Georgia Ponsonby and Amy Rule have nailed down the contentious front-row spots.

Although New Zealand inflicted a 56-12 defeat on Wales in pool play, their rivals subjected them to a stern examination in set-pieces, exposing them as an area the Ferns will need to tidy up, if they are to face title contenders England and France later in the tournament. 

"We are going to get some mauls and some good scrums, where they really challenged us last time, so that is a good thing," said assistant coach Wes Clarke. "There was a lot of stuff in our last game that wasn’t up to our standards, so that is what we have been focusing on this week."

Sarah Hirini in action for the Black Ferns
Sarah Hirini in action for the Black Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand: 1-Phillipa Love, 2-Georgia Ponsonby, 3-Amy Rule, 4-Maiakawanakaulani Roos, 5-Chelsea Bremner, 6-Alana Bremner, 7-Sarah Hirini, 8-Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, 9-Kendra Cocksedge, 10-Ruahei Demant, 11-Ayesha Leti-I’iga, 12-Theresa Fitzpatrick, 13-Stacey Fluhler, 14-Portia Woodman, 15-Ruby Tui

Reserves: 16-Luka Connor, 17-Krystal Murray, 18-Santo Taumata, 19-Joanah Ngan-Woo, 20-Kennedy Simon, 21-Ariana Bayler, 22-Hazel Tubic, 23-Renee Holmes

Catch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Black Ferns v Wales quarter-final