Top seeds England have suffered a major blow on the eve of next week's Women's World Team Squash Championship in New Zealand.
World number three Alison Waters has been forced to withdraw from the team due to injury. The squad number two from London is still struggling with an Achilles injury sustained during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Sarah Kippax, the world No24, has come into the England team as a replacement - and has already joined her team-mates Jenny Duncalf, Laura Massaro and Tania Bailey in the North Island city of Palmerston North.
Whilst this is unlikely to have any impact on the tournament seedings (the World Championship Rules stipulate that they would need to move out of the top four for a change to be made), a decision from the World Squash Federation seeding panel is expected soon.
England coach Fiona Geaves is philosophical about the loss of Waters. She says it is obviously a major blow to lose their second string player, but these things happen in squash.
"We've still got a strong squad so we're still coming into the tournament believing we can win the event," explained the former world number five.
Geaves says Waters is understandably disappointed.
"I've spoken to her - she's been texting the girls wishing them good luck of course. It's always a bitter thing not being part of a World Team Championship when you know your team has a very good chance of winning the event."
Kippax arrived in New Zealand a day after her teammates, with team management taking the precaution of flying her to Palmerston North just in case Waters was ruled out. Geaves says that has turned out to be a good decision.
"New Zealand for us is obviously a very long way (to travel) - if it was in Holland we know that we could call whoever we want and get them over, but with this trip we thought, just to cover ourselves, let's get an extra player just in case."
Kippax is excited about representing her country, albeit at the expense of an injured teammate. The 27-year-old only found out late last week that she may be needed in New Zealand, but has arrived ready and raring to go. She says she is playing well at the moment and her fitness is good so hopefully that will show on court.
"Obviously it is a big blow to the team to lose Alison - she is one of the world's best players. But hopefully I can just do my best and bring a little bit of extra strength to the team."
The biennial week's Women's World Team Championship, featuring 16 nations, will be staged for the 17th time since 1979 at SquashGym in Palmerston North, from 29 November to 4 December.
Six-time champions England finished as runners-up in 2008 in Cairo, where Egypt celebrated a popular maiden triumph on home soil.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images