WXV 1 has shifted south to Dunedin, where the roofed Forsyth Barr Stadium will host all the top level action this weekend.
The six-team tournament continues with England and Canada playing on Friday (kick-off 19:00 local time, GMT+13), both of whom picked up opening-round wins.
Hosts New Zealand are looking to bounce back from an opening loss when they take on Wales on Saturday (kick-off 16:00 local time), before the round concludes with France and Australia that evening (kick-off 19:00 local time).
It’s the second of three blockbuster weekends of rugby across the length of New Zealand, with the last round of matches in Auckland. Here is everything you need to know ahead of the second round.
England wary of Canadian threat
England and Canada both won their opening WXV 1 matches, however the two coaches have signalled they expect their sides to improve this time around.
Both sets of players will be very familiar to each other by now, having played twice last month, as well as meeting in an exciting Rugby World Cup semi-final last year.
“Our Summer Series matches against Canada were the perfect warm-up for WXV and we have no doubt they will provide a stern test once again on Friday night,” said England interim head coach Louis Deacon, who has made nine changes to his side.
Ellie Kildunne, who scored three tries across the Summer Series tests between the two sides, starts at full-back, while there’s a change at scrum-half where Natasha Hunt comes in for Ella Wyrwas.
Canada coach Kevin Rouet hasn’t tinkered too much with his side that beat Wales last weekend.
Paige Farries comes back into the starting line-up on the wing, while Sarah-Maude Lachance switches to full-back and Madison Grant drops to the bench.
Rouet and captain Sophie de Goede said that while the earlier matches were good for team development, they still expect the challenge to be a fresh one.
“We are not the same teams we were when we last met. We’ve had four weeks together and that’s meant great improvement for us. But we have to better than we were last week,” Rouet said.
De Goede, who has had extensive experience in English club rugby, said: “It’s an advantage to understand the way that the players and coaches think, and getting to learn from them.
“Playing with Marlie Packer at Saracens, as a back row player the advantage to ‘steal’ knowledge is really great.”
England: Ellie Kildunne; Abby Dow, Helena Rowland, Amber Reed, Claudia MacDonald; Holly Aitchison, Natasha Hunt; Mackenzie Carson, Lark Atkin-Davies, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Cath O’Donnell, Morwenna Talling, Marlie Packer (captain), Alex Matthews.
Replacements: Connie Powell, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Rosie Galligan, Maisy Allen, Ella Wyrwas, Tatyana Heard, Jess Breach.
Canada: Sarah-Maude Lachance; Paige Farries, Shoshannah Seumanutafa, Alex Tessier, Florence Symonds; Claire Gallagher, Olivia Apps; McKinley Hunt, Emily Tuttosi, DaLeaka Menin, Tyson Beukeboom, Courtney Holtkamp, Gabrielle Senft, Sara Svoboda, Sophie de Goede (captain).
Replacements: Gillian Boag, Brittany Kassil, Alexandria Ellis, Ashlynn Smith, Sara Cline, Justine Pelletier, Julia Schell, Madison Grant.
New Zealand hungry to bounce back against improving Wales
It’s not often a Black Ferns team has to back up after a loss, but this week has been all about reflection, according to co-captain Kennedy Simon.
The team has had an “honest review” of the 18-17 defeat to France and have made the necessary adjustments to face Wales this weekend.
“We’re going to make sure we’re capitalising on our opportunities, so we’ve had a really good training week doing that. It’s another chance for us to build some good continuity, we want to make sure when we get in Saturday we can play free,” she said.
That sentiment was echoed by director of rugby Allan Bunting, who said that Wales are a “quality side”.
“They’re probably going to kick a bit and bring line-speed pressure,” he said. “They would have seen what sort of effect that had on us last weekend, so we need to be smarter around our game in our own half.”
Wales lock Abbie Fleming is still buzzing about WXV 1 kicking off, saying it was “an amazing experience” to be one of the first people to play in the new tournament.
“You look at the Six Nations. That tournament had to start from somewhere, and we’re [at] the start of the WXV tournament. In years to come, it’ll be something phenomenal. That’s an exciting prospect,” she said.
“I can imagine New Zealand will be fighting this weekend, after their loss. But we’ve no doubt it’s going to be a good game. Our plan is to get off the line as quick as we can, make our tackles and be as much of a nuisance as we can.”
New Zealand: Renee Holmes; Ruby Tui, Amy du Plessis, Sylvia Brunt, Mererangi Paul; Ruahei Demant (co-captain), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu; Kate Henwood, Georgia Ponsonby, Amy Rule, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Chelsea Bremner, Layla Sae, Kennedy Simon (co-captain), Liana Mikaele-Tu'u.
Replacements: Luka Connor, Krystal Murray, Tanya Kalounivale, Alana Bremner, Lucy Jenkins, Iritana Hohaia, Patricia Maliepo, Martha Mataele.
Wales: Nel Metcalfe; Jasmine Joyce, Hannah Jones (captain), Hannah Bluck, Carys Williams-Morris; Lleucu George, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Donna Rose, Abbie Fleming, Kate Williams, Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Sioned Harries.
Replacements: Kat Evans, Abbey Constable, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Bryonie King, Bethan Lewis, Meg Davies, Robyn Wilkins, Meg Webb.
France looking to keep improving as they face Australia
After a tough outing in Wellington against England, Australia know that France will be no different as they attempt to cause an upset.
Coach Jay Tregonning has made three changes to his squad, notably the inclusion of versatile outside back Melanie Wilks, who is in line to make her test debut and become Wallaroo number 205.
“She has been around the Wallaroos group for a number of years and part of several touring squads without getting an opportunity to pull on the jersey,” Tregonning said of Wilks.
“It is an exciting time for her and recognition of the hard work she has continued to put in over a number of years.”
Desiree Miller was in the same seat as Wilks last Friday night and found herself injected into the game after only 15 minutes. Miller now makes her first test start in place of the injured Maya Stewart.
France are still on a high after their breakthrough first win over the Black Ferns on New Zealand soil.
Co-coaches David Ortiz and Gaëlle Mignot have also picked an exciting new winger to debut in Suliana Sivi. The 18-year-old joins flyer Emilie Boulard and Morgane Bourgeois to form an exciting back three.
“The win over New Zealand helps us grow, it’s like a stepping stone,” Ortiz said.
All the sides have expressed excitement at the prospect of playing on the famously fast track at Forsyth Barr Stadium, which has been the scene of some breathtaking rugby in its 12-year life span.
France: Morgane Bourgeois, Suliana Sivi, Nassira Konde, Marine Ménager, Émilie Boulard, Lina Queyroi, Alexandra Chambon; Yllana Brosseau, Elisa Riffonneau, Clara Joyeux, Manaé Feleu (captain), Madoussou Fall, Léa Champon, Gaëlle Hermet, Charlotte Escudero.
Replacements: Laure Touyé, Coco Lindelauf, Assia Khalfaoui, Kiara Zago, Émeline Gros, Pauline Bourdon Sansus, Carla Arbez, Gabrielle Vernier.
Australia: Faitala Moleka, Deisree Miller, Georgina Friedrichs, Arabella McKenzie, Ivania Wong, Carys Dallinger, Layne Morgan; Brianna Hoy, Tania Naden, Eva Karpani, Michaela Leonard (captain), Sera Naiqama, Siokapesi Palu, Emily Chancellor, Kaitlan Leaney.
Replacements: Adiana Talakai, Bree-Anna Cheatham, Emily Robinson, Atasi Lafai, Leilani Nathan, Sarah Dougherty, Cecilia Smith, Melanie Wilks.