With just 23 days to go England Women’s Head Coach Jason Lee has named his squad of 18 athletes to travel out to The Hague in the Netherlands for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, taking place from 31 May-15 June 2014.

All of England’s matches will be shown live on Sky; the first game will be against the USA at 12:00 (UK time) on Sunday 1 June. Further information will be announced closer to the tournament.

With three World Cups under her belt and a bronze medal from 2010 [Rosario, Argentina] England Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh will be hoping her side can improve on third this time around. Having beaten the top two sides in the world last year – the Netherlands and Argentina – England head into the tournament as strong contenders, however Australia and Pool B opponents Germany have both been nemeses to Lee’s side in recent times.

Speaking about the tournament ahead Lee said, “Any group at a World Cup is going to be tough. We’re facing some of the best teams in the world and playing the USA in our first game is significant as they come into the tournament off the back of winning the Champions Challenge at the end of last month. Argentina is another stand out team in the group, but with all the sides ranked 11th or higher and everyone aiming for that top-two finish to reach the semi-finals, we’re under no illusions as to how tough the games will be.”

The squad

Shirt # – Name – Current Club – Position

1 – Maddie Hinch – Holcombe – Goalkeeper

2 – Kirsty Mackay – East Grinstead – Goalkeeper

4 – Laura Unsworth – Holcombe – Defender

6 – Hannah Macleod – Leicester – Forward

7 – Georgie Twigg – Surbiton – Midfielder

9 – Susannah Townsend – Reading – Midfielder

10 – Susie Gilbert – Reading – Midfielder

11 – Kate Richardson-Walsh – Reading – Defender

13 – Sam Quek – Reading – Defender

15 – Alex Danson – Reading – Forward

19 – Sophie Bray – East Grinstead – Forward

20 – Hollie Webb – Surbiton – Defender

21 – Ellie Watton – Beeston – Forward

22 – Ashleigh Ball – Slough – Midfielder

23 – Sally Walton – Wakefield – Defender

26 – Lily Owsley – University of Birmingham – Forward

27 – Zoe Shipperley – Buckingham – Defender

28 – Nicola White – Leicester – Forward
The squad remains largely unchanged from that which won a silver and bronze medal during 2013 at the European Championships and World League Final respectively. However Lee has named two relative newcomers in his 18; Beeston’s Ellie Watton and Buckingham’s Zoe Shipperley.

Ellie Watton, Beeston
Watton, an attacker, made her debut at the Investec Challenge in 2013 against South Africa and has since earned 11 international caps for England and Great Britain. Speaking about her selection Lee said, “Ellie has been part-time in the squad since April 2013, whilst holding down a full time teaching job [Oakham School, Leicestershire] and the progress she has made is remarkable. She is very much a team player and provides good link-up play with a good eye for goal.”

Zoe Shipperley, Buckingham
Shipperley, also a teacher [St Edwards, Oxford], joined the centralised programme earlier this year and made her debut against New Zealand in February. Despite only having four international caps to her name, Shipperley has impressed Lee consistently during training and matches. “Zoe is a strong and powerful player and looks very comfortable in our defensive line. She is an intelligent player and reads the game well and like Ellie her progress has been significant since she joined us.”

Alongside Watton and Shipperley seven other members of the squad will be experiencing their first World Cup tournament; Maddie Hinch, Kirsty Mackay, Susannah Townsend, Sam Quek, Sophie Bray, Hollie Webb and Lily Owsley.

One obvious omission from the squad is Helen Richardson-Walsh who has been suffering with ongoing back problems. A further operation in March, when the World Cup was only 92 days away, meant that time was against Richardson-Walsh to be even considered for selection, but dogged determination and hard work meant she was back in the squad to face Canada last weekend. Unfortunately for the London 2012 Olympian Lee felt that her return to playing was just too close to the selection date to be considered for the squad.

Pool B – the opponents
England are in Pool B with Argentina, China, Germany, South Africa and the USA. Of the six teams in the pool, England (3) is the second-highest ranked in the FIH World Rankings after Argentina (2), while the rest of the sides are sixth or lower.

On paper Argentina will be the biggest challenge and having won the previous World Cup in Rosario in 2010, they’ll have their sights set on a repeat performance. The world number two side had a disappointing year, by their standards, in 2013, relinquishing top place in the rankings back to the Netherlands. However, their recent performances show them back to their best and no doubt they’ll be looking for revenge after England took bronze against them on home turf in the World League Final at the end of 2013.

World Cup build-up
Between now and the World Cup England will face six World Cup teams as they continue preparations. Information about the fixtures can be found below.

Four Nations – Bremen, Germany, 15-18 May 2014
• Link to schedule
• Australia, England, Japan and Germany meet in Bremen for the women’s 4 Nations tournament. The tournament takes place over three days in a round robin competition, two weeks before the World Cup.

Date Match Time (UK) Venue Capped
9 May England v Belgium 1700 hrs Bisham Yes
10 May England v Belgium 1300 hrs Bisham No
23 May England v China 1500 hrs Bisham No
24 May England v China 1530 hrs Bisham No
27 May England v New Zealand 1400 hrs The Hague No

Source: England Hockey Press Release

Photograph: Alex Dansen in action v Germany (Ady Kerry (c))