HOCKEY: Souyave's treble Dutch test

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The Independent Online
HOCKEY

England's women play the Netherlands tonight in the first of three Tests which should give an indication as to how their preparations to defend their European title here in June are progressing under their new coach, Maggie Souyave, writes Bill Colwill from Amsterdam.

Although without her three under-21 players, Anna Bennett, Lucy Cope and Kirsty Bowden - playing in a European juniors qualifying tournament in Bratislava - Souyave remained upbeat: "I need to know where we really are and that we can score goals.

"Tina Cullen and Mandy Nicholls have been scoring regularly for their clubs and if they can click together we should have a powerful attack. Then, in addition, there is Jane [Sixsmith] who can score or be the provider."

Souyave is too experienced to believe that the Dutch will show all their tricks over the weekend. She said: "Nor will we, but they are one of the world's top sides and will provide ideal opposition at this stage." She will name her squad next Friday, to play Germany in the Centenary match at Sheffield on 13 May and for the European Cup.

In the expected starting line-up there are three significant changes to the England side which finished such a disappointing ninth in last summer's World Cup in Dublin. Lisa Bayliss returns to strengthen a defence which also benefits from Sandie Lister moving back.

The return of Karen Brown and Nicholls, both from the league champions, Slough, will have greatly enhanced England's hopes. But above all the coach's philosophy of attacking hockey could have the greatest impact.

ENGLAND SQUAD: J Thompson, H Rose, S Lister, J Smith, L Youngs (all Ipswich), L Bayliss, M Davies, J Sixsmith (all First Personnel Sutton Coldfield), K Brown, S Wright, M Nicholls (all Slough), C Cook, T Cullen, F Lee (all Hightown), T Miller (Clifton), J Atkins (Bradford Swithenbank). Tests: Amstelveen (Today); Den Bosch (Saturday); Vlissingen (Sunday).

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