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England ready for InvestecHockey World League challenge
England Women's Head Coach Jason Lee has selected the 18 athletes who will contest the Investec Hockey World League Semi Final in London from 22-30 June. Among the athletes selected there are eight London Olympic bronze medallists who will be playing back on home turf in front of thousands of supporters at the University of Westminster Sports Ground in Chiswick.
Commenting on the squad he has selected for the six day tournament, which is also a World Cup qualifier, Lee said, "Choosing the final 18 athletes for this tournament was difficult because we have a whole training squad who are challenging for a place. I think the selected athletes have a great mix of experience and youth and they've gelled really well in a short space of time. We had some training games against New Zealand [FIH world #3] last week and the way we played in those fixtures has definitely given us a good confidence boost going into the tournament. However, with the likes of South Africa and Australia in our Pool we are under no illusions how challenging the week will be."
Sky will be showing highlights and live footage throughout the six days of action and the FIH will provide live streaming of every game. Tickets are still available across the six days of the tournament and advance tickets start from £15 for adults and £5 for U18s. Click here to find out more.
Despite a number of retirements since last summer and the switch back to England from Great Britain, London 2012 stars still make up nearly half of the selected squad members. England Captain, Reading's Kate Walsh (292 combined caps) and Alex Danson (183 combined caps) lead the way with nearly 500 international caps between them. Leicester's Nicola White and Hannah Macleod, alongside Ashleigh Ball will provide the fire power up front. The line-up also includes Holcombe's new signing Laura Unsworth and Bowdon Hightown's Sally Walton in defence with Surbiton's Georgie Twigg in midfield.
Also selected are five athletes who were part of the training squad in the build up to London 2012. Reading's Susie Gilbert, Sam Quek and new signing Susannah Townsend will play alongside another of Holcombe's recent acquisitions Maddie Hinch and Bowdon Hightown's Kirsty Mackay who are the two goalkeepers for the tournament.
The squad includes four athletes who made their debuts in South Africa at the Investec Challenge in February where the team clinched bronze. Loughborough Students' Giselle Ansley, Beeston's Hollie Webb, MOP's (NED) Sophie Bray and Surbiton's Sarah Haycroft were all new additions to the centralised training programme in April. An even more recent addition, and completing the 18 strong squad, is Bristol Firebrands' Lily Owsley. At just 18 years old the youngster, who is currently taking her A Level exams, impressed coaches earlier this year at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, where she won bronze with the Great Britain Under 21s.
Commenting on the selection England Captain Kate Walsh said, "It feels like there's a great balance in the squad; about half is made up of Olympians and that experience sits really well alongside the athletes who joined us on the centralised programme in April. Quite a few of the girls have only had a small taste of senior international tournaments, but with the National Age Group Squads and the Single System in place everyone has had the opportunity to play at an international level. The group has performed well over the last few months and we are looking forward to giving our all in front of a home crowd as we pursue World Cup qualification."
England have been drawn in Pool B and will face strong opposition from Australia, South Africa and Spain who sit sixth, 11th and 15th in the FIH world rankings. The home side are the top ranked team at fourth and will be in action on all six days.
Match One v South Africa
First up is South Africa. Despite being ranked seven places below England, the Southern hemisphere side always prove to be strong contenders and this is likely be a close encounter with open attacking hockey.
Match Two v Australia
On Sunday England face Australia; the Hockeyroos may feel they have a score to settle after their last meeting resulted in defeat as England clinched bronze at the Investec Challenge.
Match Three v Spain
Tuesday sees the final group stage games and a match against Spain, who in similar style to England, have a new coach and a new line-up.
In the other Pool Olympic Silver medallists from London and world number two side Argentina will undoubtedly have their sights set on World Cup Qualification and a place in the final on Sunday. Standing in their way will be closest rivals and Beijing Olympic silver medallists China (FIH world #7), the USA (FIH world #10) and Italy (FIH world #17), who finished top at their World League Round 2 tournament in Spain earlier this year.
Following the conclusion of the pool matches the all important World Cup qualification games will be on Thursday 27 June with the semi-finals and final placing matches on the Saturday and Sunday.