Watch England’s three-Test series against New Zealand, live on Sky Sports on October 28, 30 and November 1
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 29/09/20 10:31am
Jess Thirlby says she is “spoilt for choice” when it comes to selecting the Vitality Roses’ leadership group for their forthcoming tour to New Zealand.
The national side’s three-Test series in New Zealand will take place at the end of October and it will be the first time that England and New Zealand step onto an international court since January.
Thirlby’s touring squad, which is made up for 16 players, will depart for New Zealand on October 8 and after two weeks of quarantine, play the first Test on October 28.
The head coach has been able to name Serena Guthrie in the group after the Team Bath player concluded the year-long sabbatical she took after the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup.
“Will Serena [Guthrie] be captain, who knows…” Thirlby said to Sky Sports News.
“I’m working on what the right leadership combination will be for this particular experience. I just want Serena to come back in and really enjoy her time back in the programme.
“A World Cup captain certainly can’t be ignored, but I know whatever happens in terms of formal leadership, Serena will always lead.”
Thirlby and her squad have been following the government guidelines for return to training and elite sport since the end of July and she emphasised how much hard work has gone into preparations to face the world champions.
“We’ve had every athlete on court and we’ve not had any injury tolls in terms of this return to train and play [programme] which is incredible,” she said.
“We’re on the right track, I couldn’t have asked for much more in terms of our preparation but we’re also very realistic. We haven’t run out in a competitive match since March and we looked on with envy at the ANZ Premiership season.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand who goes into this series most probably as favourites, but I don’t want to get too distracted by that.
“I feel very duty bound as the Roses head coach to seek out opportunities and it just wouldn’t have made any sense in the short and long term, not to have grabbed this opportunity with both hands and get these players out there.”
The head coach, like so many involved in netball in England, loves the rivalry that the Roses have with the world champions.
“It’s a rivalry like no other really, I’m a big believer in that we need to get better in understanding the New Zealand way.
“As a player and a coach over my career, I’ve loved and still love being pitted against New Zealand. They have a very discrete style of play and there’s an element of that which I love unpicking with the players.”
The absence of the Roses who ply their trades in Suncorp Super Netball, which includes Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Geva Mentor and Natalie Haythornthwaite, means that others have opportunities.
In total, 10 of the 16 selected for this series have 15 caps or fewer and at the lower end of the experience spectrum, six are yet to make five appearances for their country.
“I’m a big believer in that we need to get better at really understanding the New Zealand way,” Thirlby added.
“That’s why it’s perfect that we aren’t taking a ready-made squad which are perfect right now.
“What I need is a depth of players who understand [their style] well, so that I’m spoilt for choice in two years’ time ahead of selection for the Commonwealth Games.”
Watch the Vitality Roses’ return to an international netball court as they take on the world champions the Silver Ferns in New Zealand. Enjoy every match of the series, live on Sky Sports on October 28, 30 and November 1.