Hockey: Havant stick to their principles

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INTERNATIONAL calls will leave eight clubs without key players for their opening Pizza Express National League games tomorrow. Cannock, Teddington, Guildford and Hounslow are particularly badly hit by Wales's match against Belgium in Brussels, as they each lose two team members, writes Bill Colwill.

The Intercontinental Cup qualifier in Switzerland will also have an impact on the same clubs in the second and third weeks of the season, but it is possible to apply for a postponement of fixtures under such circumstances. The Intercontinental event will also hit Old Loughtonians, who have two of Scotland's team in the line-up.

Havant, the champions for the past two seasons, start with a home fixture against Southgate, who, after winning the first League title, have failed to live up to expectations. The Hampshire side have lost their corner specialist, Rob Hill, to Firebrands, but have not shrunk from their declared aim of enforcing discpline. They have suspended their second-choice corner striker, Dave Roberts, from tomorrow's game, following his temporary sending off against Hounslow in the Club Trophy last Sunday for using bad language.

Hounslow, Havant's great rivals, will be without the Welsh internationals, Mike Williamson and Dave Hacker, but are confident of collecting the points at Surbiton. New Zealand's 25-year-old Olympic defender, Scott Hobson, is expected to make his league debut for Hounslow, along with the Australian Uwe Fuehrer. Missing from the Hounslow line- up will be last year's captain, Andy Ferns, and Martyn Grimley.

In addition to Hill, Firebrands include two Under-21 internationals from St Albans in their squad, England's Ben Cope and Germany's Henning Tewes, together with Andy Rhys-Jones, from Bournville.

Indian Gymkhana, relegated from the First Division last season, look capable of bouncing straight back and should be too strong for visiting Cheltenham in their opening Second Division fixture. The Seoul Olympic gold medallist, Kulbir Bhaura, and his brother Charanjit, return to the fold.