New faces galore in England hockey squad for South Africa tour

[img_assist|nid=7066|title=Co-captain|desc=Laura Unsworth – hockeyimages.co.uk|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=264]LONDON, January 24 – England have named eight uncapped players and just two members of the GB London 2012 bronze-medal winning side in their squad for the Investec Challenge in South Africa.

Laura Unsworth and Nicola White are the two 2012 Olympican with further experience coming from Pinoke’s Beckie Herbert – three international caps short of a century – and Reading pair Susie Gilbert and Sam Quek

Of the other athletes selected, goalkeepers Maddie Hinch of Leicester and Kirsty Mackay of Bowdon Hightown, and Canterbury pair Dilly Newton and Susannah Townsend were involved in the Great Britain training squad leading up to last summer’s Olympics.

Gilbert and Unsworth, who will face each other in the final of the Maxifuel Super Sixes at Wembley Arena the day before departing for Cape Town, have been named co-captains for the Investec Challenge.

Of the newcomers, four have made the step up from the successful England U21 women’s squad that won the bronze medal at the Junior EuroHockey Nations Championships last year. Loughborough Students’ Giselle Ansley, Surbiton’s Sarah Haycroft, Leicester’s Jo Hunter and Clifton’s Joanna Leigh all play their club hockey in the Investec Women’s Hockey League and were part of the side that overcame Germany in their last game for the Under 21s in August.

Beeston pair Hollie Webb and Ellie Watton, University of Durham’s Steph Elliot, former University of Birmingham athlete Sophie Bray and Lauren Turner of HDM (Netherlands), formerly of Leicester, make up the 18. 

England will face the hosts South Africa in their opening match on Monday February 4 in Cape Town before taking on Olympic gold medallists the Netherlands the following evening. An ‘ashes’ clash with Australia rounds off England’s group matches on Thursday February 7, with semi finals and medal matches following.

The group will be led by Karen Brown, England’s most capped hockey player of all time. She has served as assistant coach to the England and Great Britain women’s squad since 2006. Following Danny Kerry’s promotion to Performance Director and Assistant Coach Craig Parnham’s recent appointment as head coach of the USA, Brown will be joined on the trip by coaches Craig Keegan, the England U21 women’s coach, and David Ralph, director of hockey at Loughborough University. Ralph previously held the role of Head Coach to the England U21 men’s squad. 

Brown said: “It’s a great opportunity for us to look at new players for the next Olympic cycle, as well as providing an opportunity for some players who just missed out on Olympic selection. The high quality opposition will mean a steep learning curve and with so many established internationals missing I will be interested in which athletes step up and show leadership, and who relishes the extra responsibilities they will have to take on both on and off the pitch.”

England will depart for Cape Town on Monday January 28  and will play a couple of uncapped practice matches before the tournament commences on Monday February 4


Investec Challenge Fixtures

Monday 4 February

18:00 local time – 16:00 GMT – Australia v Netherlands

20:00 local time – 18:00 GMT – South Africa v England

Tuesday 5 February

18:00 local time – 16:00 GMT – Netherlands v England

20:00 local time – 18:00 GMT – South Africa v Australia

Wednesday 6 February – Rest Day

Thursday 7 February

18:00 local time – 16:00 GMT – Australia v England

20:00 local time – 18:00 GMT – South Africa v Netherlands

Friday 8 February – Rest Day

Saturday 9 February

15:00 local time – 13:00 GMT – Semi Final 1: 1st v 4th

17:00 local time – 15:00 GMT – Semi Final 2: 2nd v 3rd

Sunday 10 February

12:00 local time – 10:00 GMT – Bronze medal match

14:00 local time – 12:00 GMT – Gold medal match


England squad

Name (Club) England caps/England goals – GB caps/GB goals – Age

Giselle Ansley (Loughborough Students) 0/0 – 0/0 – 20

Sophie Bray (MOP (NED)) 2/0 – 0/0 – 22

Steph Elliott (University of Durham) 0/0 – 0/0 – 22

Susie Gilbert (co-capt) (Reading) 40/5 – 35/4 – 23

Sarah Haycroft (Surbiton) 0/0 – 0/0 – 21

Beckie Herbert (Pinoke (NED)) 67/8 – 30/4 – 26

Maddie Hinch (GK) (Leicester) 5/0 – 3/0 – 24

Jo Hunter (Leicester) 0/0 – 0/0 – 21

Jo Leigh (Clifton) 0/0 – 0/0 – 19

Kirsty Mackay (GK) (Bowdon) 0/0 – 4/0 – 26

Dilly Newton (Canterbury) 0/0 – 7/0 – 23

Sam Quek (Reading) 8/0 – 20/0 – 24

Susannah Townsend (Canterbury) 5/0 – 0/0 – 23

Lauren Turner (HDM (NED)) 0/0 – 0/0 – 22

Laura Unsworth (co-capt) (Loughborough Students) 47/0 – 37/1 – 24

Nic White (Leicester) 44/4 – 37/1 – 24

Ellie Watton (Beeston) 0/0 – 0/0 – 23

Hollie Webb (Beeston) 0/0 – 0/0 – 22