Thirlby gives young hope­fuls a chance as World Cup play­ers opt out of tour

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Ben Bloom

Jess Thirlby, the new Eng­land head coach, has named a youth­ful squad for her first tour in charge, with a “new gen­er­a­tion” of play­ers ea­ger to stake their claim as the fu­ture of the na­tional side. Thirlby took over from Tracey Neville af­ter a World Cup cam­paign in Liver­pool in which Eng­land won bronze, but fell short of their stated aim of mak­ing a first fi­nal.

Just two mem­bers of that World Cup squad, Fran Wil­liams and Nat Pana­garry, have made themselves im­me­di­ately avail­able for se­lec­tion, with Eng­land’s most se­nior play­ers tak­ing time out and, in some cases, con­sid­er­ing their in­ter­na­tional fu­ture.

That presents an op­por­tu­nity for a num­ber of young­sters to prove themselves in a de­vel­op­men­tal, be­hind-closed-doors tour of Aus­tralia and New Zealand this month. Wil­liams and Pana­garry were yes­ter­day both named in a squad of 15, with for­mer Aus­tralia de­fender Kate Shim­min an­other notable in­clu­sion af­ter switch­ing al­le­giance last month.

“Jess is not naive and knows it’s go­ing to be re­ally hard,” Wil­liams said. “She knows it’s go­ing to be hard to even sustain what’s hap­pened be­fore un­der Tracey.”

Pana­garry said win­ning her first in­ter­na­tional medal at the World Cup was “mon­u­men­tal”, with the tour­na­ment herald­ing a “new era for net­ball” in this coun­try.

But she ad­mit­ted the en­tire Eng­land set-up was de­ter­mined not to re­peat the “dev­as­ta­tion” of miss­ing the fi­nal at the next World Cup in Cape Town in 2023.

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