Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns team overhauled for clash with Wales

The Black Ferns have rung the changes for their second Rugby World Cup showdown with Wales at Auckland's Waitakere Stadium on Sunday.

Coach Wayne Smith and his selectors have made 12 changes - including five debutants - to the starting XV that beat Australia 41-17 in their tournament opener last weekend.

Lock Chelsea Bremner, first-five and captain Ruahei Demant and wing Portia Woodman - who scored a hat-trick against the Wallaroos - are the only players who'll back up from the run-on side at Eden Park.

A fresh front row sees Awhina Tangen-Wainohu make her first start in the black jersey and Tanya Kalounivale returning from injury, while hooker Georgia Ponsonby is promoted from the bench.

Alana Bremner also makes an injury comeback, and will be joined by Kendra Reynolds and Charmaine McMenamin in the starting loose forward trio.

Theresa Fitzpatrick and Sylvia Brunt combine in a newlook midfield, while Renee Wickliffe gets a start on the wing in her fourth World Cup campaign, with Ruby Tui shifting from the wing to fullback for the first time.

Prop Krystal Murray will make her Rugby World Cup debut off the bench.

Wing Ayesha Leti-I'iga and co-captain Kennedy Simon weren't considered, due to injury.

The Ferns will have a wealth of experience and firepower to call upon from the bench, with both veteran halfback Kendra Cocksedge and Black Ferns Sevens skipper Sarah Hirini among the interchange players.

Portia Woodman in action against Australia
Portia Woodman in action against Australia. Photo credit: Photosport

Before the tournament, Smith was vocal about his wish to ensure all his players get a chance to shine and his selection for this weekend's Pool A clash reflects that intention.

"We are balancing a desire to keep as much continuity as possible, but we want to give players the opportunity to put their form out on the park, so we are putting in a lot of work around who plays when," he said. "We need to use this whole occasion to make us better.

"We're in our own country, marching behind our flag - it is the greatest time in our life. We need to use that to our advantage."

Through five previous meetings, the Black Ferns are undefeated against Wales, most recently trouncing them 54-16 during last year's northern tour. They also locked horns at the World Cup in 2017, where the NZ women emerged 44-12 victors.

On Sunday, Wales began their Cup campaign with a last-gasp 18-15 win over Scotland in a dramatic contest at Whangārei.

New Zealand: 1-Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, 2- Georgia Ponsonby, 3-Tanya Kalounivale, 4-Maiakawanakaulani Roos, 5-Chelsea Bremner, 6-Alana Bremner, 7-Kendra Reynolds, 8-Charmaine McMenamin, 9-Ariana Bayler, 10-Ruahei Demant, 11-Portia Woodman, 12-Theresa Fitzpatrick, 13-Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai’i (Sylvia) Brunt, 14-Renee Wickliffe, 15-Ruby Tui

Reserves: 16-Luka Connor, 17-Krystal Murray, 18-Santo Taumata, 19-Joanah Ngan-Woo, 20-Sarah Hirini, 21-Kendra Cocksedge, 22-Amy du Plessis, 23-Hazel Tubic

Check out the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us at 3:15pm Sunday for live updates of the Black Ferns v Wales pool encounter