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England head coach Jess Thirlby backs younger players and seeks improvement for second South Africa match | Netball News

England beat South Africa 54-51 on Tuesday night in the first of a three-game Vitality Netball International series; England held off late comeback in their first home match since the World Cup in August; Watch Game 2 on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports YouTube on Saturday from 4.45pm

Last Updated: 06/12/23 2:48pm

Jess Thirlby has called on her side to improve after they held off a late comeback on Tuesday evening to beat South Africa

Jess Thirlby has called on her side to improve after they held off a late comeback on Tuesday evening to beat South Africa

Jess Thirlby has urged her side to take positives from Tuesday’s victory over South Africa and reiterated her trust towards younger and more inexperienced players.

Eleanor Cardwell starred for England on Tuesday evening with 34 goals, while Imogen Allison was named player of the match, as the team came through a late surge to beat South Africa 54-51 in series opener.

Looking ahead to their second game – live on Sky Sports on Saturday – head coach Thirlby is challenging her side to improve, as they made a winning return on home soil after finishing as runners-up in the World Cup in August.

“There were some really pleasing signs and to know we’ve got more to come but to still be able to take a win against a stellar team like South Africa, with some really experienced players, is a great sign,” said England head coach Thirlby.

“But we know that performance will need to improve for Saturday. We’ve got found out a few times, but in between there’s some lovely passages of play, and I think individually they can all be proud of something.

Player of the match Imogen Allison discusses England’s defensive play in the first game of the Vitality International Series against South Africa

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Player of the match Imogen Allison discusses England’s defensive play in the first game of the Vitality International Series against South Africa

Player of the match Imogen Allison discusses England’s defensive play in the first game of the Vitality International Series against South Africa

“I think we were a bit slow to stand up to the physicality early on.

“We know that Karla [Pretorius] is going to mark us for the 60 minutes. I think we’re a bit slow to expose some depth on that roll out of those positions. (We need to) make sure we’ve got the work-rate and workloads so we can present cleaner lines for the ball.”

Extended breaks to captain Natalie Metcalf and goal shooter Helen Housby from netball has prompted Thirlby to trial a younger and more inexperienced side in this international series. The head coach was pleased with their showing on Tuesday evening and said she’s open to making changes ahead of Saturday’s game.

“I think we know we’ve got more to come, but that’s really exciting,” she added.

“I’m really pleased with those players that came off the bench, perceived to be the lesser experienced ones. I think Berri [Neil] came on and added real value in the attacking end. You know Ellie Rattu came on with four minutes to go, got some ball in hand, really supported us.

Watch highlights of the vitality international series as England edged South Africa to a victory on Game 1

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Watch highlights of the vitality international series as England edged South Africa to a victory on Game 1

Watch highlights of the vitality international series as England edged South Africa to a victory on Game 1

“I thought Imo’s [Imogen Allison] done a good job, staying out there for 60. She’s got to learn to keep doing that internationally, but still found some ball at wing defence, which was nice.

“Liv Tchine at the end (with) seven minutes to go, I know she can do that and she just turned into post with such confidence at the moment.”

Thirlby added: “We’ve come here with the intention that all 14 are good enough. We needed to journey through Game 1 just to understand if what we’ve prepared them. Now we need to go back to the drawing board and think who the best 12 are to execute the game plan in Game 2.

“So yeah, watch this space, but I have trust. You saw the line-up that finished that game, if anything that shows you we trust a very young, inexperienced side to see it out. It’d be lovely if we could get more combos out.”

You can watch England take on South Africa in their home series between December 5-10, live on Sky Sports. Watch Game 2 on Sky Sports Arena and Mix on Saturday (4.45pm) Stream the netball and more with NOW I Get Sky Sports


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