07/05/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/05/2019 09:45
Kendra Cocksedge will become only the second Black Fern to earn a 50th test cap when she leads New Zealand out against France at the Women's Rugby Super Series in San Diego on Saturday.
Cocksedge has been handed the captain's armband for the occasion and will hope to celebrate the landmark with a third Black Ferns victory in the tournament.
France will slip to fourth in the World Rugby Women's Rankings unless they claim back-to-back wins over New Zealand - having beaten them for the first time ever, 30-27 last November - and by a margin of more than 15 points after losing 36-19 to Canada in round two.
The other match in round three sees Canada taking on England with both sides having won one match in the tournament.
England had a bye on Tuesday but will be keen to maintain their 100 per cent start to this year's tournament and welcome back captain Sarah Hunter for the encounter.
France v New Zealand
Kendra Cocksedge will captain New Zealand on Saturday as she edges closer to Fiao'o Fa'amausili's Black Ferns-record tally of 57 test caps.
The scrum-half made her test debut aged 19 in 2007 and has since represented her country at three Women's Rugby World Cups, while she was named World Rugby Women's Player of the Year in 2015 and became the first female to win the Kelvin R Tremain New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year award in 2018.
She takes the armband from Les Elder, who has been rested as an injury precaution, and is also the Black Ferns' record points scorer having amassed 305 points in her career to date, including 23 in two matches in San Diego.
'Kendra directs the team around the field and she's been the best number nine in the world for a number of years now,' Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore said. 'She is relentless and very competitive and she trains as hard as she plays.'
New Zealand Rugby CEO Stew Tew added: 'Kendra is an outstanding ambassador for our game and her pursuit of excellence is impressive. Kendra's legacy not only inspires young players to want to be like her, it also motivates those around her.'
Marcelle Parkes will start at openside flanker in place of Elder, while Charmaine McMenamin has been named at number eight with Pia Tapsell switching to the blindside.
Meanwhile, France have made eight personnel changes to the team that was beaten 36-19 by Canada in their first game on Tuesday.
Hooker Caroline Thomas, prop Annaelle Deshaye, second-row Madoussou Fall and flanker Celine Ferrer come into the pack while captain Gaelle Hermet shifts to number eight.
In the backs, Pauline Bourdon is restored at scrum-half and forms a half-back pairing with Morgane Peyronnet, while centre Gabrielle Vernier, winger Caroline Boujard and full-back Jessy Tremoulière also start with France hoping to repeat their success when the sides last met, in Grenoble last November.
'We've had a couple of good wins but if there's one thing we know about the French, it's that they take a step up when they face the black jersey. We saw that when we played them twice in France eight months ago,' added Moore.
Canada v England
England captain Sarah Hunter returns to the Red Roses starting line-up after coach Simon Middleton made nine changes to his side for the meeting with Canada.
Hunter sat out the 38-5 defeat of the USA on day one but will lead the side from number eight on Saturday, with Sarah Beckett also coming into the back-row.
Vickii Cornborough, Lark Davies and Hannah Botterman will form an all-new front-row at the Chula Vista Training Center, while Catherine O'Donnell is named in the second-row and Jo Brown switches from blindside to openside flanker.
Behind the pack Middleton has named a new centre partnership in the form of Emily Scott and Millie Wood, while Carys Williams has been selected on the right wing.
Having sat out round two, England will be keen to keep pace with the Black Ferns at the top of the standings and make it seven wins in a row against Canada, the most recent being a 27-19 last November. Canada's last win was in their victorious Women's Rugby Super Series in 2016.
'I think Canada have got the competition going with their performance against France as I don't think many people expected them to win,' Middleton said.
'It's huge when Sarah Hunter plays for us. We have some great back-row players but she has so much character and leadership so it's great to have her back.'
Canada captain Laura Russell is restored to the starting line-up having scored a try off the bench against France, and is joined in the pack by back-row Gabby Senft, whose inclusion at blindside means another try-scorer Janna Slevinsky switches to openside.
Meanwhile, Brianna Miller starts at scrum-half while Alysha Corrigan is named on the left wing and Sara Kaljuvee gets the nod at inside-centre, with Alex Tessier shifting into the No.13 jersey.
Photo: Travis Prior