Wallaroos win tour opener in NZ
The Australian women's rugby team have snatched a morale-boosting win in the opening match of their whirlwind New Zealand tour.
Preparing to face world No 1-ranked New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday in the first of two Tests, the Wallaroos beat Auckland 21-19 despite fielding 11 uncapped players in their team.
The Wallaroos rallied from an 11-point deficit, only claiming the lead for the first time with seven minutes remaining.
Alisha Hewett, Sarah Riordan and Nareta Masters scored tries for the tourists and Chloe Leaupepe kicked two penalties.
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The Australians, who have not played a Test since 2014, can now turn their sights to making history on Saturday as they have never beaten New Zealand in 13 previous Tests.
Wallaroos captain Ash Hewson has no time for hoodoos.
Hewson is a correctional officer at Long Bay prison, so neither a 30-year Australian drought at Eden Park nor the prospect of staring down the Black Ferns' haka on Saturday are causing her to lose sleep.
"Plenty of times I've been involved in a scuffle with inmates ... I've definitely seen a lot scarier things than the haka, that's for sure," Hewson said.
The national 15s representative team, coached by Paul Verrell, are preparing for a World Cup in Ireland next year but, with Australian Rugby Union funding flowing into the higher-profile sevens format, struggle to play together regularly.
"Definitely we need more test matches, we need more game time, what you do in camps can't even come close to playing a test match against any country," Hewson said.
"It's probably detrimental compared to the northern hemisphere countries who get to play in Six Nations and test matches every so often."
Verrell, who named 13 debutants in his squad for the two-test, three-game tour of New Zealand, said he believed there were moves afoot to give the Wallaroos the battle-hardened edge they needed.
"New Zealand and us are probably the only nations who don't play in a continuous test match series," he said.
"The moves are there, each year we get a bit closer to locking in a few more test matches and hopefully by the time we go to the World Cup we'll have played four or five test matches.
"It comes down to what we can afford and who we can get down to play."
The Wallabies, who are defiant in the face of their own poor record against the world champion All Blacks, might be glad of the Wallaroos' company on Saturday night.
Coach Michael Cheika said the double-header was a great moment for women's sport.
"The girls who are contributing more and more into their craft are getting recognition by getting the opportunity to play on the big stage," he said.
- Sydney Morning Herald and AAP