Hockey: Scotland to provide stern test for England

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The Independent Online

England Women'S preparations for September's European Nations Cup take a step forward next weekend with a one-off Test against Scotland in Manchester.

The Scots, who are also stepping up plans for the Barcelona event, will provide tough opposition after winning a four-nations event in Vancouver earlier this week.

With three weeks remaining before the England coach, Tricia Heberle, selects her squad for the European Championships - which also serve as the qualifier for next year's Athens Olympics - there are no real surprises among the 18 players picked to play Scotland.

There is a vast amount of experience within the squad with eight players each having made more than 100 international appearances. But it is the less-established players Heberle will be concentrating on at Belle Vue on 19 July.

An England development squad takes on Scotland the following day when Leicester's Helen Richardson hopes to make her international comeback after seven months out with an ankle injury.

"At this stage of the preparation, competition for places is quite tight so I'm looking forward to some quality performances against the Scots and for several of the fringe players to really put their hand up," she said. "I am hoping Helen Richardson will return to action for the second match, but we will assess her in training and make a decision late next week."

The Clifton midfielder Denise Marston-Smith is still three months away from fitness after knee surgery.