To allow the coaching team to assess all the players thoroughly against challenging opposition, the squad will be split into two groups, with one travelling to Malawi and the other to Botswana, before moving on to play a number of matches in South Africa.
Head of the U21 programme Lyn Gunson will accompany the players travelling to Malawi, while Colette Thomson, coach of the U21 team which won silver at the last World Youth Championships in Florida in 2005, will head the party touring Botswana. And with a host of young Superleague stars included in both groups, expectations are high for a successful African trip.
Eboni Beckford Chambers and Sasha Corbin of TeamBath, both members of the England Open squad, will be travelling to Malawi, while Leeds Met Carnegie’s Alex Kirk and Northern Thunder’s Darcie Worsdale will team up in the group visiting Botswana. Mavericks’ Joanne Harten, a member of the U21 squad, has been included in the Open squad touring party to Australia and will miss the Africa tour. The full touring parties are as follows:
Malawi: Eboni Beckford Chambers, Danielle Bloomfield, Sasha Corbin, Lauren Doyle, Stephanie Essex, Stacey Francis, Serena Guthrie, Sarah Jane O’Sullivan, Abby Ryan, Scarlett Williams, Monique Wood
Botswana: Katie Bradshaw, Verity Collins, Courtney Cummins, Kirsty Delves, Jade Forbes-Whatley, Lindsay Keable, Alex Kirk, Masago Mataung, Sam Perry, Katie Rose, Darcie Worsdale.
England Netball’s Performance Director Nigel Holl knows that the tour will be a challenging one: “Botswana and Malawi are both fast-improving nations in international netball terms and will play a very different style of game from that which our squads are used to. In addition their Open squads are also in final preparations for this autumn’s World Championships, so will pose a stern test for our young sides.
“Touring and playing internationally throws up very different problems from domestic competition and the trip will allow the management team to assess players’ reactions to the whole experience as we start to focus on the Cook Islands in 2009. As our preparations for that competition continue, it is vital that we give all the players in the U21 squad the opportunity to demonstrate and develop their abilities against tough opposition, so they are ready for the challenges ahead.”
Botswana was the surprise package of the last U21 World Championships, finishing ninth and pushing eventual champions New Zealand hard in the group stages with their simple yet devastatingly effective playing style. Malawi’s Open squad, meanwhile, finished sixth at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne last year, defeating world number five South Africa en route and their senior squad is sure to pose some very different challenges for the England touring party.
England’s young tourists will complete their tour in South Africa, taking part in the South African University Championships, as well as the U19 and U21 championships in Eastern Gauteng.
For more information, please visit www.englandnetball.co.uk.
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photo Dan Vernon
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