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England Netball’s Vitality Roses set for Uganda Tests as World Cup build-up continues, live on Sky Sports


Funmi Fadoju is one of England’s most exciting young talents and will be part of the Uganda series

England’s ‘new-look’ Vitality Roses side are set for three intriguing Tests against Uganda as players bid to make their mark ahead of next year’s Netball World Cup.

Jess Thirlby’s Vitality Roses left this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham without a medal, after a semi-final loss to Australia and a subsequent bronze medal play-off defeat at the hands of New Zealand.

After the competition, Thirlby announced that a review would “hopefully fine-tune where we need to make incremental changes” and indicated wholesale changes were not necessarily on the cards.

Now, England are at the start of a busy period with three Tests against Uganda, live on Sky Sports, a tour to Australia to face the Diamonds and then a FAST5 Netball World Series competition.

England’s Vitality Roses – October and November fixtures

Wednesday, October 5 England vs Uganda Live on Sky Sports Mix at 6.30pm
Saturday, October 8 England vs Uganda Live on Sky Sports Arena at 3.30pm
Sunday, October 9 England vs Uganda Live on Sky Sports Arena at 1.30pm
Wednesday, October 26 Australia vs England Newcastle
Sunday, October 30 Australia vs England Sydney
Thursday, November 3 Australia vs England Brisbane

Thirlby has named three squads for the forthcoming matches, with the first three games against Uganda marking the start of England’s final international season ahead of the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa.

Tracey Neville, the former England head coach, knows all about building a squad for a major competition and she told Sky Sports she is looking forward to seeing many of the Roses in action.

“This time building up to the World Cup, Jess Thirlby is trying to expose as many players as she can, in as many positions, and she’s giving leadership roles to different people,” Neville said.

“That’s a really positive step for Thirlby going forwards because she needs to see which players are up for it, particularly when she’s lost Stacey Francis-Bayman and Eboni Usoro-Brown at the back [due to retirement]. She’s now got two huge shoes to fill in their positions and the only way to test them is in the up-and-coming series.

“These are positive steps for the Roses going forwards and there’s a lot of players in there who I know and work with and they’re wanting to challenge and get into that World Cup squad.”

England Netball's Vitality Roses set for Uganda Tests as World Cup build-up continues, live on Sky Sports

Uganda will be full of confidence, and we are under no illusion as to how competitive the three matches will be. With both next year and the longer term in mind, it provides a perfect test of a new-look Roses side, full of exciting talent to embrace and we will be buoyed to have the support of our home fans.

Jess Thirlby – England’s head coach

Laura Malcolm and Imogen Allison have been named as the co-captains for the matches against Uganda in Nottingham and London, with Commonwealth Games captain Nat Metcalf not being part of the series. Nat Panagarry has withdrawn from the squad due to personal reasons.

Both Malcom and Allison are popular squad members and have experience at leading teams within the Vitality Netball Superleague. Eleanor Cardwell is also an extremely experienced member of the squad selected to face Uganda.

Alice Harvey, Natasha Pavelin, Ellie Ratu, Paige Reed and Olivia Tchine have all been handed their first call-ups, while many eyes will be on young defender Funmi Fadoju.

Fadoju’s development has been continually watched by Thirlby and the London Pulse athlete was a Roses Futures athlete before being moved into the full-time programme for 2022-23.

“I think she’s a huge talent which is why she was in and around the [full-time] programme last year,” England’s head coach said.

“The one thing I would appeal to people is what you see on a court for 60 minutes is one thing, but there’s a whole narrative under there about helping to manage these young players.

“Funmi is an incredible talent and we just need to make sure that with all of the young talents, we support them accordingly. That means that, if and when they break through, they’re here for good and they don’t get elevated too soon, without the necessary support around them.”

Vitality Roses squad for Uganda series

Imogen Allison (co-captain) Eleanor Cardwell Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
Zara Everitt Funmi Fadoju Alice Harvey
Hannah Joseph Laura Malcolm (co-captain) Tash Pavelin
Chelsea Pitman Ellie Rattu Paige Reed
Liv Tchine Fran Williams

With Francis-Bayman and Usoro-Brown hanging up their dresses and the likes of Layla Guscoth and Geva Mentor not being called upon for the Uganda Series, Fadoju has a chance to shine and do so against incredibly challenging opposition in the form of Mary Cholhok and Proscovia Peace.

Neville believes another defender also has a strong opportunity to stake a claim for a World Cup place.

“I look at Fran Williams, who made her debut when I was in role as a goal defence, and she’s got so much talent,” Neville said. “She plays such a gritty man-on-man game which you can play against the top nations.”

At the other end of the court, Chelsea Pitman will be back in an England dress for the first time since the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in 2020.

After winning a gold medal with England on the Gold Coast in 2018, Pitman has been through an incredibly difficult time both personally and professionally and this series could mark the start of real positivity and stability.

Pitman has an opportunity to flourish in an area of the court that some thought was too light during the Commonwealth Games, the wing attack position.

She has joined London Pulse for the 2023 season and will be there with Jade Clarke, England’s most-capped international, who returns to England’s line-up for their tour of Australia.

Since succeeding Neville as head coach, Thirlby has worked hard to expose players to international netball at the right time and with a World Cup on the horizon, these Test matches against Uganda are perfectly placed for her to see who can handle the highest level of the game.

Coverage of the first Test against Uganda starts at 6.30pm on Sky Sports Mix on Wednesday with a first centre pass at 7pm. The second Test takes place on Saturday and the final Test on Sunday, both live on Sky Sports..

Vitality Roses squads

Vitality Roses squad to face Uganda: Imogen Allison, Eleanor Cardwell, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Zara Everitt, Funmi Fadoju, Alice Harvey, Hannah Joseph, Laura Malcolm, Natasha Pavelin, Chelsea Pitman, Ellie Rattu, Paige Reed, Olivia Tchine, Fran Williams.

Vitality Roses squad to face Australia: Imogen Allison, Eleanor Cardwell, Jade Clarke, Beth Cobden, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Funmi Fadoju, Layla Guscoth, Jo Harten, Alice Harvey, Helen Housby, Hannah Joseph, Laura Malcolm, Geva Mentor, Natalie Metcalf, Olivia Tchine, Fran Williams.

Vitality Roses squad to compete at FAST5 Netball World Series: Zara Everitt, Elle McDonald*, Taylor McKevitt, Natasha Pavelin, Lois Pearson, Jayda Pechova, Ellie Rattu, Paige Reed, Alicia Scholes, Emma Thacker.
*Awaiting British passport to finalise eligibility


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