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The Kiwi Ferns return to Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday for the first time since 2020 to take on Mate Ma'a Tonga in a match that will be a perfect warm-up to their World Cup campaign in November.

After more than 18 months of no international rugby league, the Kiwi Ferns will want to reconnect as a side under new coach Ricky Henry and build a decent platform before the tournament takes place at the end of the year.

The Kiwi Ferns have undergone plenty of change since the 2017 World Cup with the retirement of Honey Hireme-Smiler just one void that will need to be filled on Saturday. 

The match will also be a special occasion for Mate Ma'a Tonga, who are looking to push for entry into the 2025 World Cup in France and follow their male counterparts by building a powerhouse nation in women's rugby league.

The Tongan women last played against Niue in 2020 for a 66-8 victory. 

It will be their first Test match against the Kiwi Ferns since 2008, where they were beaten 42-4 by the three-time World Cup champions. 

The Rundown

Team news

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns: The Kiwi Ferns are 1-17 with no late changes. Amy Turner and Page McGregor will both make their Kiwi Ferns debut in the centres while Broncos powerhouse Roxy Murdoch also gets a first international cap in the back row.

Five-eighth Laishon Albert-Jones is the fourth debutante and will feature in the halves alongside Raecene McGregor.

Krystal Rota will captain the young side from hooker and will likely split time with veteran Nita Maynard, who is coming off the bench.

Mate Ma'a Tonga: Tonga are 1-17 with no late changes on game day. Lavinia Tauhalaliku will captain the side from fullback with Broncos outside back China Polata slotting in at five-eighth. Dragons prop Tegan Dymock will lead the forward pack after announcing her re-signing with the Red V this week, while Shannon Muru is one to watch in the back row.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Kiwi Ferns is number 1 Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly
    Fullback for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 1 Lavinia Tauhalaliku
  • Winger for Kiwi Ferns is number 2 Madison Bartlett
    Winger for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 2 Pier Pritchard
  • Centre for Kiwi Ferns is number 3 Page McGregor
    Centre for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 3 Haylee Hifo
  • Centre for Kiwi Ferns is number 4 Amy Turner
    Centre for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 4 Maatuleio Fotu-Moala
  • Winger for Kiwi Ferns is number 5 Katelyn Vaha'akolo
    Winger for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 5 Luisa Sekona
  • Five-Eighth for Kiwi Ferns is number 6 Laishon Jones
    Five-Eighth for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 6 China Polata
  • Halfback for Kiwi Ferns is number 7 Raecene McGregor
    Halfback for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 7 Keisharn Hala

Forwards

  • Prop for Kiwi Ferns is number 8 Annetta Nu'uausala
    Prop for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 8 Tegan Dymock
  • Hooker for Kiwi Ferns is number 9 Krystal Rota
    Hooker for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 9 Shirley Mailangi
  • Prop for Kiwi Ferns is number 10 Mya Hill-Moana
    Prop for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 10 Natasha Penitani
  • 2nd Row for Kiwi Ferns is number 11 Roxette Murdoch
    2nd Row for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 11 Kimberly Nikua
  • 2nd Row for Kiwi Ferns is number 12 Ngatokotoru Arakua
    2nd Row for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 12 Shannon Muru
  • Lock for Kiwi Ferns is number 13 Georgia Hale
    Lock for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 13 Katrina Latu

Interchange

  • Interchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 14 Nita Maynard
    Interchange for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 14 Monica Samita
  • Interchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 15 Charlotte Scanlan
    Interchange for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 15 Kalosipani Hopoate
  • Interchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 16 Kararaina Wira-Kohu
    Interchange for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 16 Ana Taumalolo
  • Interchange for Kiwi Ferns is number 17 Christyl Stowers
    Interchange for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 17 Amelia Mafi

Reserves

  • Replacement for Kiwi Ferns is number 18 Karli Hansen
    Replacement for Mate Ma'a Tonga is number 18 Noia Fotu-Moala

Match Officials

  • Referee: Kasey Badger
  • Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy

Last updated:

Key match-up

Krystal Rota v Seli Mailangi: Both dummy halves bring some experience for their side after coming off NRLW seasons in Australia. Rota will be the most experienced player on the paddock in Saturday's clash and with Nita Maynard in the wings, the pair needs to get the forward pack rolling. Mailangi, the niece of former NRL player John Hopoate, proved handy for the Eels in her maiden NRLW season and with an inexperienced side, will need to step up and guide the Tongan outfit. 

Stat attack

Kiwi Ferns winger Madison Bartlett finished the 2021 NRLW season as the leading try-scorer with six tries, making her the most prolific in the competition's short history overall. Bartlett has joined the Titans for the 2022 season starting in August. Her Dragons centre partner, Page McGregor, had five try assists next to her in a handy left edge combination going into the match.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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