The French side, currently sitting at fourth in the women’s world rankings, are the first challenge of the tour on November 23 (NZ time) before the team travel to Norway for two matches against the ninth-ranked side on November 26 and 28.
The 20-strong Football Ferns squad includes 11 players with over 50 caps, headed by captain Abby Erceg, who became the first New Zealand player – male or female – to reach 100 senior ‘A’ internationals during the recent Oceania Women’s Nations Cup tournament in Papua New Guinea.
That experience is balanced with a number of younger players making the trip with age-group representatives Catherine Bott, Evie Millynn, Jasmine Pereira and debutant Isabella Coombes all taking their first few steps at senior international level.
Readings says the balance of the team reflects the intention to build the strongest possible squad as the team head towards Canada in June next year.
“It’s a good mixture of players that have been in the team for a while and have helped the team get to the position they are in and also a mixture of some younger players coming into the squad,” Readings said.
“That’s how we want the squad moving forward; we want to be increasing the depth of the squad and the competition for places.”
Midfielder Kirsty Yallop and striker Hannah Wilkinson return to action after missing the Oceania Women’s Nations Cup through injury with Readings glad to have two players with more than 50 caps each back in the fold.
“Thankfully for us we’re able to welcome back Kirsty and Hannah who were unavailable through injury for the last tour so they’ve bolstered the squad and their experience is going to be really needed in these upcoming matches.”
Readings says the November European tour provides a perfect opportunity for the group to continue their work in refining their playing system against strong opponents with one eye firmly focussed on June’s showcase tournament.
“We played Brazil in June and they were two quality matches for us and we played them at home so we had a bit of an advantage there. We’re going back now to playing away from home against top quality opposition.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work since we got our funding after the Olympics around building our playing model and the way we play and we’ve got those things to a point now where we’re ready to start executing.
“We’re starting to enter the home straight towards the World Cup and we’ve built to a point where there is a deep shared understanding among the team of how we play and how we want to play when we reach the World Cup and then moving on to the Olympics.”
Readings issued a challenge to players looking to cement themselves in the World Cup frame to use the three-match tour to build their case for inclusion moving forwards.
“There’s a settled core among the squad which we want to unsettle a lit bit. We want to make sure the people chasing the pack are getting more exposure and more experience.”
“We’ve said it all along that when we get to the World Cup we’ll be picking a squad of 21 and there are some players in there you could almost guarantee their spots and some not so much.
“What we want to have is as much competition as possible, not just in the squad but also in the starting 11.
“The players that are on the fringes, we are looking for them to really make a step up and over the last 12 months there has been a lot more opportunities for these players. It’s down to them to do the best they can to take those strides forward.”
Football Ferns – France/Norway tour
(Caps/Goals – Club)
Erin Nayler (18/0 - Glenfield Rovers, NZ)
Rebecca Rolls (20/0 - Three Kings Utd, NZ)
Catherine Bott (1/0 - Forrest Hill Milford Utd AFC, NZ)
Abby Erceg (102/5 - USV Jena, GER)
Meikayla Moore (9/0 - Coastal Spirit, NZ)
Ria Percival (94/10 - USV Jena, GER)
Ali Riley (82/1 - FC Rosengard, SWE)
Rebekah Stott (28/2 – SC Sand, GER)
Hayley Bowden (90/10 – unattached)
Isabella Coombes (0/0 – Claudelands Rovers, NZ)
Betsy Hassett (68/8 - Manchester City, ENG)
Katie Hoyle (91/1 - Notts County FC, ENG)
Annalie Longo (67/4 - Coastal Spirit, NZ)
Evie Millynn (2/0 - Eastern Suburbs AFC, NZ)
Kirsty Yallop (81/12 – Vittsjo GIK, SWE)
Helen Collins (22/5 - Claudelands Rovers, NZ)
Sarah Gregorius (55/21 - AS Elfen Saitama, JPN)
Amber Hearn (88/43 - USV Jena, GER)
Jasmine Pereira (1/0 - Three Kings Utd, NZ)
Hannah Wilkinson (58/19 - University of Tennessee, USA)
Coach: Tony Readings
Assistant coach: Aaron McFarland
Assistant coach: Danny Robinson
Manager: Claire Hamilton
Sports Scientist: Harriet Steele
Performance Analyst: Gary Connell
Physiotherapist: Catherine Porteous
Doctor: Julie Shamlaye
France v Football Ferns
Saturday 22 November, 6.30pm (Sunday 23 November, 6.30am NZ time)
Norway v Football Ferns
Tuesday 25 November, 7pm (Wednesday 26 November, 7am NZ time)
Norway v Football Ferns
Thursday 27 November, 7pm (Friday 28 November, 7am NZ time)