Hockey: England duties hamper holders

The National Indoor League gets under way this weekend up and down the country with the women's Premier League sampling a new venue at Rickmansworth Royal Masonic School for Girls. Both Loughborough Students, the men's defending champions, and their women's counterparts Chelmsford, who will be defending their titles, will be handicapped by England's recent commitments in South Africa.

The National Indoor League gets under way this weekend up and down the country with the women's Premier League sampling a new venue at Rickmansworth Royal Masonic School for Girls. Both Loughborough Students, the men's defending champions, and their women's counterparts Chelmsford, who will be defending their titles, will be handicapped by England's recent commitments in South Africa.

While Lisa Wooding and Chloe Rogers will be available for Chelmsford, they will only have arrived back this morning. Students, however, will be missing Richard Alexander and Glen Kirkham who do not return until next Thursday but welcome the return of Scottish international James McBlane.

Chelmsford start the ball rolling against Ipswich who after a dismal year last season have come good with the acquisition of several new players including England's goalkeeper in South Africa, Becky Duggan, and from Chelmsford, Cathy Gilliat Smith. In the men's competition the former England captain Andy Halliday returns to the St Albans' line-up along with Stephane Port and Paul Bolland while Cannock have recruited Nick Thompson and have Welsh international Simon Organ back in the fold.

The top four in each League go to the play-offs at Crystal Palace on 4 February with a place in Europe awaiting the winners.

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