England U21s out to make history at Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana
England U21s are gunning for gold at the Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana this July.
They will face Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Wales and Grenada in Pool D before they could meet netballing giants Australia and New Zealand.
The young Roses have been runners-up at the competition three times but there’s an air of confidence among the squad that this side can go one step further.
Speaking exclusively to Sports Gazette, captain Fran Williams said: “I think this is the team that’s got the potential to do something.
“We’d hope to definitely qualify first out of our group.
“Then going into those knockout stages, you’ve got to put everything into those one games – there’s no fall-back opportunities.
“It’s definitely one to keep an eye on in summer for maybe and hopefully slash definitely making history!”
Coach Emily Perry is equally positive about their chances of success looking at their group draw but refuses to take anything for granted.
She said: “I think there’s teams on paper that aren’t as strong but they might catch us out, particularly Trinidad and Tobago – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.
“There might be a tall player or there might be some really talented players.
“I know that their goal attack, who’s the captain of their squad, is also playing in the Superleague for Celtic Dragons so I don’t think we can underestimate them at all.
“We’ve played Wales on a few occasions so we know what we’re facing half of the time and the other half of the time we’re just making sure that we’re not complacent.”
Perry’s squad have been working hard over the past few years to put themselves in the best position to challenge at the World Youth Cup.
And they appear to have succeeded in developing a tight-knit group.I don’t think there’s any reason why we cannot come away with the gold.”
Defender Summer Artman said: “A lot of us have played at age groups together so you know all of our combinations are really starting to come out now and really starting to see what works.
“I think we’re in great stead in build-up – still a few things to tweak and to get better at as always – but we’re really looking forward to Botswana.”
This won’t be the first time the U21s make the trip to South Africa.
They took part in a preparation tour there back in January, where they got to test themselves against the world’s best teams – the Aussie Diamonds and Silver Ferns.
And many of the squad have continued to push themselves in high-level competition since then, starring in the 2017 Superleague.
Perry is enjoying watching her young guns week in, week out and is delighted with the progress they’re all making.
She hopes playing regularly in the domestic league will build their confidence in time to deliver this summer.
She said: “They’re some of the fittest athletes we’ve had from an under 21 group going into a senior programme.
“The fact that they’ve been stepping out on court in the Superleague shows you that they can compete technically and tactically with the seniors so we’re hoping to bring some creativity, our own style and winning performances.”
Team management have planned meticulously – from individual player performance analysis and development plans to arranging a pre-competition tournament - and the squad are showing a steely determination to succeed.
Artman said: “I don’t think there’s any reason why we cannot come away with the gold.”