New Zealand vs England 2021: Tamsin Greenway previews the Vitality Roses tour to New Zealand | Netball News

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Layla Guscoth is part of an England squad with plenty of questions that need answering in New Zealand (Credit Ben Lumley)

Layla Guscoth is part of an England squad with plenty of questions that need answering in New Zealand (Credit Ben Lumley)

With less than a year to go until the Commonwealth Games, England take on world champions New Zealand in a three-match series – Tamsin Greenway ponders the key questions ahead of a busy week.

It’s a first, but late step towards the Commonwealth Games and that makes it a little bit scary because we are running out of time!

However, for both teams it’s a massive opportunity.

I’ve been reading about who wins, and clean sweeps but in this instance with 10 months until the Commonwealths I genuinely don’t think the results matter – the coaches have to come out of it knowing more about their squads.

Who are the key players, the combinations that they are going to be looking at? I said this the last time England took a team out to New Zealand, we are very heavy as a nation in some positions, and very light in others.

England are back at a stage where things are very exciting – loads of talent, loads of potential, loads of styles but what is it going to end up looking like?

These are position groups where there is an awful lot going on – so in that respect it’s a brilliant opportunity for England to find out about players and cement some styles as they go forward.

Defensive options

Geva Mentor being back at goalkeeper is huge – it’s so massive not just for her and for England but for the players she might play with and how they start building that unit.

Geva will also have a huge say in who partners her at the back.

Geva Mentor is back in the Roses squad, but who will fill the void alongside her in defence?

Geva Mentor is back in the Roses squad, but who will fill the void alongside her in defence?

For Layla Guscoth, Fran Williams or Vicky Oyesola to get some court time with her is crucial and they’ll be looking to step up and impress.

I think Fran Williams gives you something different to Guscoth, Oyesola and Stacey Francis-Bayman when she comes back into things in Australia – and that’s before we know whether Eboni Usoro-Brown will bring herself back into contention.

With Moklolo now on board in the coaching staff, she’ll heavily influence Jess on what that defensive end looks like

That’s three goal defences, one of the positions where we are heavy and another is wing defence. We’ve seen glimpses of them all, but now with Geva back behind them it’s a real opportunity.

Vitality Roses Squad for New Zealand and Australia Series

Ella Clark Rhea Dixon George Fisher
Eleanor Cardwell Sophie Drakeford-Lewis Laura Malcolm
Hannah Joseph Serena Guthrie Beth Cobden
Imogen Allison Jade Clarke Geva Mentor
Layla Guscoth Francesca Williams Vicki Oyseola
Stacey Francis-Bayman (Australia leg only) Joanne Harten (Australia leg only) Helen Housby (Australia leg only)
Natalie Haythornthwaite (Australia leg only)

A big tour for………

The attack end. [Jo] Harten and [Helen] Housby are there, they are on the plane…well, the bus! It’s a home Games!

But I am not sure that Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher could both go. I think they’ll need another out-and-out goal attack which leaves these two possibly playing for one position.

After a stellar debut year in the New Zealand ANZ competition, George Fisher will be looking to cement a place in the squad (Credit: Sportpix - Kevin Booth)

After a stellar debut year in the New Zealand ANZ competition, George Fisher will be looking to cement a place in the squad (Credit: Sportpix – Kevin Booth)

There are squad questions as you fit the puzzle. Housby can’t play at goal attack the whole time, does Jess rest her and Harten? Are we saying Cardwell is going to be an out-and-out goal attack? Maybe.

So, with that in mind, for Rhea Dixon, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Cardwell and Ella Clark as goal attacks it’s a real opportunity – all four in that bib are completely different players

For George Fisher, as a shooter, I want to see her take this chance and that will come down to who she plays with.

You’ve got to feed Fisher, you can’t have someone of that quality in the squad and not put ball into her. She needs delivery of good ball and quantity – she’s shown this year in the ANZ [domestic NZ competition] what she can do if she’s given the ball.

Hannah Joseph has fed Mary Cholhok all season, let’s give her the chance to do that again and let players play to their strengths.

We need to find out answers, and we are going to need to find them out quick.

Vitality Roses’ New Zealand and Australia Series – Live on Sky Sports

September 20 New Zealand Silver Ferns vs England Vitality Roses
September 22 New Zealand Silver Ferns vs England Vitality Roses
September 24 New Zealand Silver Ferns vs England Vitality Roses
October (Date TBC) Australian Diamonds vs England Vitality Roses
October (Date TBC) Australian Diamonds vs England Vitality Roses
October (Date TBC) Australian Diamonds vs England Vitality Roses

And what of the world champions?

New Zealand are in a similar position but what you know you are going to get from the Silver Ferns is a style of play, whoever they slot in defensively they will play a certain way.

From an attacking point they’ve worked with Ameliaranne Ekenasio for a while, she is not in the squad but they’ve developed Maia Wilson in there in the same way.

You know how they want to play, but what will be interesting now is how they bring in newer players – like Grace Nweke and Peta Toeava, who have had such great seasons with Mystics where they’ve won the ANZ Championship.

They’ve earned their call-ups, but what they haven’t had is time together – because of restrictions for some there have been just three days’ preparation.

Could we see New Zealand try some new things? With new players?

But we know what they do well so. for England, to play against New Zealand defensively will be a great barometer. It was our biggest downfall in the World Cup semi-final, we didn’t play well enough in breaking down their unit.

There are players playing, who’ve had the experience of last time in New Zealand but now they’ve been around there needs to be a greater plan – they can’t fall into the same naïve traps.

Although we’ve got more experience, that New Zealand defensive style, a style they play so well will be such an area of interest – can England handle it?

Prediction Time

I don’t think winning the series is crucial for England, I don’t think they need to win any of them if they learn what they need to and for that reason I don’t think either will take a 3-0 sweep.

Jess Thirlby will hope to have a better idea of her squad and combinations by the end of the tour (Credit - Ben Lumley)

Jess Thirlby will hope to have a better idea of her squad and combinations by the end of the tour (Credit – Ben Lumley)

That said, I think they will win one of them! Is that a prediction?

For Jess, if she can come away with an understanding that her attack end can break down – consistently and for long periods of time – the New Zealand defence, she will be very happy.

If she can have some questions answered in key positions – goal attack, George Fisher, and the wing defence position then she, and England, will be in a really good place.

Watch live coverage on Sky Sports Arena, Mix and YouTube channel of England’s series in New Zealand as Jess Thirlby’s squad begin preparations for the defence of their Commonwealth Games gold medal in Birmingham in 2022

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