Les Elder named new Black Ferns captain as fresh-faced squad announced for 2019

Bay of Plenty loose forward Les Elder has been named as Fiao'o Fa'amausili's successor as captain of the Black Ferns with a fresh-faced squad announced for 2019.

Elder, a specialist openside flanker, made her debut for the Black Ferns in 2015 and has earned 13 caps since then while also being a member of the 2017 World Cup-winning squad.

She won't be alone in leadership though with veterans Kendra Cocksedge and Selica Winiata named co-vice captains of the 35-strong squad.

Coach Glen Moore said Elder was a natural leader who has had a big impact on the squad since her debut, making her a natural choice to step up as the next captain of the squad.

New Black Ferns captain Les Elder and Linda Itunu with the Laurie O’Reilly Memorial Trophy in 2018. Source: Photosport

"On the field Les is uncompromising, and her knowledge of the game is outstanding," Moore said.

"Off the field she has the ability to bring players together and bring out the best in them. She is a clear communicator, setting high standards for herself for others to follow."

The 2019 squad features 10 uncapped players made up of seven new forwards and three backs.

Moore said preparation for this year's Women's Rugby Super Series in San Diego, in which the team will compete against the other top four women's sides in the world for the first time, is going well.

"Everyone has a desire to be selected for the 2021 World Cup but we have a job to do first in the US, and it's an opportunity for these players to show what they are capable of. 

"The young talent we've seen at recent camps is very encouraging and it's meant selection has been difficult and some very good players have missed out."

While the departure of stalwarts such as Fa'amausili has left some gaps experience-wise in the squad, Moore said it simply meant new players had a chance to claim long-term spots in the squad.

"I’m looking forward to trying new combinations and building more depth in the squad, particularly in key positions, so that in two years’ time we will be spoilt for choice."

After the Super Series in June and July, the Black Ferns will play two Tests against Australia in August to wrap up their season.

Black Ferns 2019 Squad (* denotes new cap)

Black Ferns squad: Forwards: Eloise Blackwell (Akl), Forne Burkin* (Canty), Luka Connor* (BoP), Les Elder (BoP, capt), Karli Faneva (BoP), Aldora Itunu (Akl), Phillipa Love (Canty), Charmaine McMenamin (Akl), Toka Natua (Waikato), Aleisha-Pearl Nelson (Akl), Joanah Ngan Woo* (Wgtn), Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (Counties-Manukau), Marcelle Parkes (Wgtn), Leilani Perese (C-M), Kennedy Simon* (Wkto), Charmaine Smith (AKL), Pia Tapsell* (N Harbour), Harono Te Iringa* (C-M), Cristo Tofa (Akl).

Backs: Chelsea Alley (Wkto), Kelly Brazier (BoP), Grace Brooker* (Canty), Kendra Cocksedge (Canty, v-capt), Krysten Cottrell (Hawke's Bay), Kiritapu Demant (BoP), Ruahei Demant (Akl), Theresa Fitzpatrick (Akl), Carla Hohepa (Wkto), Ayesha Leti-linga (Wgtn), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu* (C-M), Kilisitina Moata'ane* (Otago), Natahlia Moors (Akl), Alena Saili (Southland), Renee Wickliffe (BoP), Selica Winiata (Manawatu, v-capt).

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