allblacks.com 30.Aug.2013Getty Images
Counties Manukau last played in the women's national competition between 1999 and 2005, while Taranaki played one season in 2000. Their re-entry to the Women's Provincial Championship, and Hawke's Bay's decision not to compete, means that eight teams will contest the competition title this year.
With the 2014 international programme for the Black Ferns due to be announced soon, players will vie for a spot in the squad to compete in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France next year.
The competition kicks off next Saturday 7 September and will see Otago face Wellington at home, Counties Manukau taking on Waikato in a regional derby in Papakura, Manawatu take on Taranaki and in a repeat of the Championship Final, defending title holders Auckland face Canterbury in Auckland.
General Manager Community and Provincial Rugby Brent Anderson said while it was disappointing to lose Hawke’s Bay from this year’s competition, the arrival of Counties Manukau and Taranaki was an exciting development for women’s rugby.
“It has been an exciting time for the women’s game. From the Black Ferns winning their three-Test series at home this year, to the Women’s Sevens team, featuring many of our Black Ferns, who were crowned World Sevens Champions in Moscow.
“We have really seen women more involved in the game through sevens, secondary schools and through club rugby. Many women and young girls playing rugby cheered on the Black Ferns at Eden Park, Waikato Stadium and Pukekohe Stadium during their three Tests against England.
“This competition will be an important platform for many of the women eyeing up a call-up for next year’s World Cup Squad,” he said.
Black Ferns captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili said: “It’s going to be an intense competition with new teams on board. I wish all the teams the best and I’m sure all players will be playing to impress selectors leading up to next year’s World Cup. It’s exciting to see sevens players committed to their fifteens province and we are all out there to improve our rugby game.
“I hope everyone gets behind their province and makes some noise. It’s going to be a fantastic display of rugby watching the best players in the world hit it out against each other.”
Counties Manukau captain and Black Fern Rawinia Everitt said:
“I am really excited that Counties Manukau is fielding a team in this year’s WPC. Most of the girls in the squad are new to this level of rugby and there are a handful who do add some experience. The girls are keen to learn from one another at trainings or be pushed to the limits from our experienced coaching team.”
Taranaki will this year be captained by Neesha Barrett – first cousin to Taranaki rugby sons Scott, Kane, and Beauden Barrett.
“This is the first time Taranaki has had a team in the WPC in over a decade so we’re very excited. Obviously there are a few nerves but we have a really great team who are very supportive of each other. As players, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to play on the national stage against the best women’s rugby players in the country.”