Three tests a year not enough - Winiata

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 12/12/2012

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Black Fern Selica Winiata wants to see more rugby tests after their 3-0 series loss to England.

The Manawatu fullback played in all three tests, the second series New Zealand has lost to England in a row, and Winiata believed the three close losses happened because they did not have any warmup games.

"We haven't played together like England," she said.

"They had just come off Six Nations. They played France before playing us.

"For us, we'd only been in camp and running against each other. Not being able to have a proper game is always going to affect you when you go over and play the second-ranked team in the world - they're bigger and faster."

England won 32-23, 18-8 and 16-13, and after their series win last year, some might believe New Zealand's dominance of the women's game is well and truly over.

"To the general public, they probably think that. I think it comes down to the lack of game time that we get.

"You look at most of those English rugby players and the number of test caps they have compared to a Black Fern, it's triple if not more."

New Zealand's most experienced player before the series was Emma Jensen with 31 games, while many English players had more than 50.

Winiata believes three tests a year are not enough and they need more to stay a strong side, especially with the increasing popularity of sevens, the new Olympic sport.

She played the first two tests at fullback and the third on the wing as coach Brian Evans tried different combinations in search of a win.

"I was really stoked to be named in the starting XV and to play full 80 minutes for all three test matches," Winiata said.

Despite the losses, she enjoyed the tour, especially playing on Twickenham after the All Blacks, and learnt a lot, having been out of the national squad for four years since her debut in 2008.

"I didn't get a lot of opportunity out wide, especially in the first couple of games. So the ball that we did see was normally pretty scrappy ball and we couldn't do too much with it unfortunately."

This weekend she will be in action for Manawatu at the Central region sevens at Massey University as they try to qualify for nationals in Queenstown next month.

Then she can push for a spot in the national sevens team for the world series, with the next leg in Houston, Texas, in February.

"The sevens haven't ruled me out just because I've gone and played for the Black Ferns. I just have to prove myself this weekend."

Winiata has been nominated for the women's player-of-the-year award at the New Zealand rugby awards on Friday.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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