England Netball

The England Roses sealed the Vitality Netball International Series with a match to spare on Sunday after a 61-53 win against the Malawi Queens.

The Roses will now travel to the Genting Arena in Birmingham with an unassailable 2-0 lead, hoping to now see out the series in style.

And Tracey Neville has stressed that the team still have aims to achieve.

She said: “The hopes and expectations are obviously to win three out of three tests.

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“From a coaching objective point of view, we’ve got some positional requirements we want to continue to try and develop and expose players in particular positions.

“We actually have a real integrated squad at the moment and we have players who can play multiple positions depending on what strength we need and I think that’s a real exciting opportunity for us as well – I think just to test us as coaches to say where is that player best placed.

“We’re throwing everything at the players and they’re responding so well.”

Discussing what fans coming to the Genting Arena on Wednesday can expect from the Malawi Queens, Neville said:

“Quite a different style of netball – the African netballers play a very strategic, possession game.

“They’re very clinical in the way they take the ball down the court and play very unorthodox – that is something our young Roses are having to adapt to and I think it’s a great experience for them.”

One of the Queens’ key strengths, and an area in which they’ve particularly threatened, is their shooting circle.

Neville admitted that this was flagged before the series began.

She said: “The way they move, the impact that they have but more that they’re ball getters.

“They want the ball, they distribute it off and get it back and that is something that we’re having to counteract.

“We’ve obviously got an experienced defender in there with Ama but we’ve also got some inexperience with her so I think that’s a real test for us as a team.

“But also for Malawi, having Kumwenda in the squad is obviously a massive plus – we saw the impact that she’s making in the Suncorp and she’s just got better and better as she’s got more experience so she’s one that we’re having to stop.”

And Neville believes that the three-match Vitality Netball International Series will ultimately benefit both the Roses and the Malawi Queens.

She said: “Just to give Malawi the experience to come over – I think supporting an African nation who have probably limited funds for their netball programme – is a really important thing for the top nations to do.

“Other than that I think it also enables us as a programme to match some of our players against lower-ranked countries as well.”

With the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2019 World Cup fast approaching, Neville stressed the importance of the test series.

She said: “This is such an important test series for us and we’re in the very fortunate position that we are trying to create depth through that Roses programme.

“So these are players who have been excelling through Netball Europe, who have been excelling out at the Quad Series in New Zealand against other friendly teams and this is now about them putting their best foot forward.

“I think I want to be in a position in February, come that Commonwealth Games selection, to turn around to the players and say ‘we’ve given you every possibly opportunity to get selected for that Commonwealth Games’.

“We also have to keep in mind that we’re working towards the World Cup and beyond and that is very important for us and some of these players are key and instrumental in that World Cup 2019 squad.”

Reflecting on the squad’s progress and work still to be done, Neville said: “You talk about the hill you want and I feel like we’re at the right point in the hill.

“You know these players they’re driven by success and a lot of these obviously have done nothing for England but win and that’s a great experience for them – it’s not something that, as a former player, you normally say.

“A lot of it is about the culture they’re trying to create off the court as well.

“These girls are a great squad to coach and it’s nice to test them on the international stage.

“They’re being supported 100% by the spectators because the fans want their home players to grow.”

The England Roses face the Malawi Queens in the third and final match of the Vitality Netball International Series at the Genting Arena on Wednesday evening.

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