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Emma Thurston

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England’s Vitality Roses seek to win the series against New Zealand after triumphing in the second Test on Wednesday; watch the third match of the Cadbury Series live on Sky Sports Mix from 8am (BST) on Friday morning

Last Updated: 23/09/21 2:04pm

England's Vitality Roses and New Zealand's Silver Ferns meet for a winner-takes-all Test on Friday morning

England’s Vitality Roses and New Zealand’s Silver Ferns meet for a winner-takes-all Test on Friday morning

England’s Vitality Roses face New Zealand’s Silver Ferns in a series decider on Friday morning, with Jess Thirlby’s outfit looking to build upon the momentum they generated during the second half of the second Test in Christchurch.

The Vitality Roses were disappointed to lose the opening Test of the series by six goals, however, after producing a purposeful championship quarter in the second Test, Thirlby’s team ensured that captain Serena Guthrie could still lift the Taini Jamison Trophy on Friday morning.

Throughout her tenure, Thirlby has impressed the importance of playing as many ‘crunch matches’ as possible before next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the 2023 Netball World Cup.

As a former international herself, Thirlby knows that matches with silverware on the line create a different level of pressure and force her players to manage a greater level of discomfort.

The key for all on Friday and in forthcoming matches, will be knowing what’s coming and having the tools to handle winner-takes-all occasions.

Many of the Vitality Roses’ senior players – Serena Guthrie, Geva Mentor and Layla Guscoth – know all about this type of situation but others, who could be instrumental at next year’s Commonwealth Games, must continue to develop their knowledge through occasions like this deciding Test.

The Vitality Roses are building towards a home Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham

The Vitality Roses are building towards a home Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham

From a coaching point of view, both Thirlby and her counterpart Dame Noeline Taurua have a conundrum to solve with regard to the number of changes they decide to make for the final Test.

Both have made tweaks to their starting line-ups during the series and both have introduced players to amend the dynamic mid-match.

Although injuries have forced Taurua’s hand in places, she has shuffled her deck more than Thirlby. Taurua’s post-match comments – and further quotes to RNZ in New Zealand – indicate that this series is all about learning and continued growth.

Silver Ferns – Starting Sevens

Test One Test Two
GK: Kelly Jury GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick
GD: Karin Burger GD: Kelly Jury
WD: Maddy Gordon WD: Sam Winders
C: Sam Winders C: Claire Kersten
WA: Gina Crampton WA: Shannon Saunders
GA: Tiana Metuarau GA: Tiana Metuarau
GS: Maia Wilson GS: Te Paea Selby-Rickit

“You can do a lot in ANZ [Premiership] and it’s always that big step up,” New Zealand’s head coach said. “Unless you’re out there, you never know [what it’s like]. It’s a starting point for people and for us as a team, and we’ve got to lick our wounds and get on with the job.

“Obviously, we go for a win, but if someone can tell me what my strongest line is, I’ll be really happy about that because I feel like I’ve got quite a few,” she added to RNZ.

“I’ve got to be really objective, not emotional and stay focused about what our long term goal is.

“The only way you can learn is through the good times and the bad and this is a massive learning curve, not only for her [Grace Nweke] but others as well within our team.”

Vitality Roses – Starting Sevens

Test One Test Two
GK: Geva Mentor GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Layla Guscoth GD: Layla Guscoth
WD: Beth Cobden WD: Imogen Allison
C: Serena Guthrie C: Serena Guthrie
WA: Laura Malcolm WA: Laura Malcolm
GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis GA: Eleanor Cardwell
GS: Eleanor Cardwell GS: George Fisher

The Roses generated a wave of momentum during the second half of the second Test, and both Thirlby and captain Serena Guthrie have spoken about the importance of improving their start.

With that in mind, Thirlby may well choose to field Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and George Fisher together from the outset, as well as maintaining the Team Bath unit of Serena Guthrie, Imogen Allison and Layla Guscoth further back.

Vitality Roses’ New Zealand and Australia Series – Live on Sky Sports

September 20 New Zealand Silver Ferns 48-42 England Vitality Roses
September 22 New Zealand Silver Ferns 45-55 England Vitality Roses
September 24 New Zealand Silver Ferns vs England Vitality Roses
October (Date TBC) Australian Diamonds vs England Vitality Roses
October (Date TBC) Australian Diamonds vs England Vitality Roses
October (Date TBC) Australian Diamonds vs England Vitality Roses

However, as captain Guthrie points out, a modern Test match is seldom won by just seven players and others must be poised to stamp their authority at any moment.

“The netball world is changing. You cannot just stick with the seven anymore,” Guthrie said, after their victory on Wednesday.

“There’s too much talent out there; too many tactics, everyone is smartening up, which is great for the game.

“We know they are a classy team that can score quickly and if we don’t take care of our own possession then we will be in trouble.

“We will always be pushing for more. The standards keep rising – I think that was one up on the game the other night, especially for us. The sky is the limit, isn’t it? You have just got to keep pushing and we’ll see what we can come up with next.”

Watch live coverage on Sky Sports Arena, Mix and YouTube channel of England’s series in New Zealand on Friday at 8am as Jess Thirlby’s squad continue preparations for the defence of their Commonwealth Games gold medal in Birmingham in 2022.





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