Thirlby welcomes tough tests in Netball Nations Cup

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England start their Vitality Netball Nations Cup campaign on Sunday 19 January REUTERS/Lee Smith
England start their Vitality Netball Nations Cup campaign on Sunday 19 January REUTERS/Lee Smith

Coming off the back of their series win in South Africa, head coach Jess Thirlby can’t wait for England to be tested in the upcoming Vitality Netball Nations Cup, writes Nicola Kenton.

Thirlby took charge following England’s bronze medal-winning exploits at the 2019 Netball World Cup and the side are competing back on home soil for the first time since July.

The Roses will face world champions New Zealand, South Africa and Jamaica in the four-nation tournament which is being played in Nottingham, Birmingham and London.

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England face a tough test in their opening match as they play New Zealand on Sunday but Thirlby is welcoming the chance to play the world champions.

The head coach believes her side have built momentum heading into tomorrow’s 2019 Netball World Cup semi-final repeat – especially since tasting success in South Africa.

“Preparations have been brilliant,” Thirlby said. “We’ve been in camp for the whole of the last week and we’ve been in and out of camp since returning from South Africa.

“They’ve gone really well; the group are very buoyant. I think they’re just super excited to get out on court against some of the world’s best again.

“Off the back of the South Africa series we really welcome the opportunity to go up against the World Champions and Jamaica, for whom we don’t meet very often in-between major championships.

“I’m sure South Africa will want revenge after November, so it’s been a really good week and there’s lots of momentum coming into tomorrow.”

Natalie Haythornthwaite will captain the Roses once again, after taking the reins for the first time in the series against South Africa.

After the World Cup last year, the England team has seen many of its international stars take a break from the sport and the squad is a blend of youth and experience.

Haythornthwaite believes it’s important that younger members get the opportunity to play against high-quality opposition on home soil and can’t wait to lead out her country.

“It’s exciting, I think it’s a huge honour to be able to be given this role and captaining the Nations Cup on home soil,” she said.

“I’m really well supported with Jess (Thirlby) and Laura Malcom as a vice-captain. I’m taking the opportunity and it’s great to be able to play international netball against the top nations – I’m very much looking forward to it.

“For some of our girls they’ve had a well-earned rest and recovery, and it’s good for them to be able to have that.

“I think it’s good for some of our younger players to have an opportunity to represent the Roses leading on from SA and getting the opportunity to get out there on home soil against the top nations. We’ve got a very excited group.”

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