Rugby World Cup: Wayne Smith springs surprise changes for Black Ferns' tournament opener against Australia

The Black Ferns have named their side for Saturday's Rugby World Cup opening match against Australia, kicking off the tournament at Eden Park.

After an unbeaten start to 2022, coach Wayne Smith has picked a strong matchday 23 to face the Wallaroos, with 17 players making their first World Cup appearances.

Co-captain Kennedy Simon has been ruled out of her side's opening match, still to overcome knee and calf injuries, seeing Ruahei Demant lead the team.

The Black Ferns celebrate winning the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial trophy against Australia.
The Black Ferns celebrate winning the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial trophy against Australia. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Smith has named a new midfield combination, with Amy du Plessis shifting inwards from No.12, while former Sevens star Stacey Fluhler starts at centre.

Meanwhile, loose forwards Charmaine McMenamin and Liana Mikaele-Tu'u have swapped roles, switching between No.6 and No.8 respectively, as Sarah Hirini completes the trio at No.7.

"We have a lot of players that have the ability to fill starting positions, so we need to give opportunities and see who takes them," said Smith of the changes. 

"We've wanted to look at Amy at second-five for a while and Stacey comes into centre where she is world class.

"Liana and Charmaine are an exciting combo, Liana is an explosive athlete who is really good in the line out so wanted to see her at eight."

The Black Ferns have already defeated Australia three times in 2022, winning all three matches and also taking the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial Trophy.

Black Ferns: 1-Phillipa Love, 2-Luka Connor, 3-Amy Rule, 4-Joanah Ngan-Wood, 5-Chelsea Bremner, 6-Charmiane McMenamin, 7-Sarah Hirini, 8-Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, 9-Kendra Cocksedge, 10-Ruahei Demant, 11-Portia Woodman, 12-Amy du Plessis, 13-Stacey Fluhler, 14-Ruby Tui, 15-Renee Holmes

Reserves: 16-Georgia Ponsonby, 17-Awhine Tangen-Wainohu, 18-Santo Taumata, 19-Maiakawanakaulani Roos, 20-Kendra Reynolds, 21-Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, 22-Hazel Tubic, 23-Logo-I-Pulotu Lemapu Atai'i Brunt

Watch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join us on Saturday for live updates of the Black Ferns v Australia World Cup opener.