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Hockey: Optimistic England

England were in optimistic mood last night at Bisham Abbey as they made their plans to lay the Australia bogey to rest and entertained their guests to a barbi.

The teams meet this evening at Basingstoke in the first of their two Test series in the knowledge that England have not beaten their great rivals since winning 2-0 in Melbourne in 1985 with goals from Richard Dodds and Imran Sherwani.

England's optimism is based partly on the approach they showed in a training game against Southgate last Sunday, which they won 7-1 - new- found aggression paid dividends - and partly on the briefing their manager, David Whittle, and their coach, Dick Clarke, gave them after watching Tuesday evening's game in which Australia beat the England Under-21 side 3-1.

The new aggression largely follows the return of the Old Loughtonians pair, Julian Halls and Nick Thompson, in a very experienced squad.

Halls has returned from a spell in the Netherlands looking extremely fit and sharp in defence. Thompson added a new dimension to the attack with his bustling, shoot-on-sight style.

Australia, who flew in after finishing third in the Four Nations tournament in Hamburg at the weekend, have had their problems recently. Their new coach, Terry Walsh, is trying to find a balance between youth, and experience. His current squad includes 11 from their Olympic bronze medal squad.

ENGLAND (probable): D Luckes (East Grinstead); A Humphrey (Cannock), J Wyatt (Reading), J Halls (Old Loughtonians), G Fordham (Hounslow); B Sharpe (Cannock) J Pidcock (Cannock), B Waugh (Southgate); B Crutchley (Cannock), R Garcia, (HDM, capt), N Thompson (Old Loughtonians). Substitutes: S Mason (Reading), C Giles (Klein Zwitserland), D Woods (Southgate), D Hall (Guildford), C Mayer (Cannock).

AUSTRALIA (from): L Dreher, D Diletti, M York (capt), S Caruthers, G Corbitt, S Davies, J Duff, J Hiskins, J Elmer, B Garard, P Gaudoin, P Lewis, M Smith, J Stacy, D Sproule, D Wansbrough.