Vitality series test of progression of Sunshine Girls — Coach Francis
Sunshine Girl Crystal Plummer (left) goes high for the ball with Jermaine Anglin during a practice match at the National Indoor Sports Centre on Friday.

Head coach of Jamaica's senior netballers Connie Francis says the three-match Vitality Netball International Series against hosts England should provide the perfect opportunity to assess the progress of the Sunshine Girls as they prepare for the 2023 World Cup.

The series is slated for January 11 to 15 of next year. The first game is set for January 11 at the AO Arena in Manchester, while the second and third match is set for Copperbox Arena in London on January 13 and 15.

"To have a full squad tonight (Friday, November 25, 2022), it feels good, and it is selection night, so everybody is giving their best, hoping that they can make the final 14 to go to England.

"We have the full squad tonight for the first time, but they have been training; strength and conditioning. You know, it is up to par with their trainer, and so we are training," Francis told the Jamaica Observer during a practice match between the Sunshine Girls and a male team at the National Indoor Sports Centre last Friday.

Francis said that the main aim for the squad is to get a good blend of chemistry between the young talents and the senior players.

"The main focus is to try to get a combination and give everyone a chance to get some game time and ensure that they are healthy going into England and just give of their best.

"I hope that we play well enough and that we will be able to win some games. It is important for us to win some games and not only win them with the senior players but with a mixture of players," Francis said.

The Netball World Cup 2023 will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, from July 28 to August 6, and Francis said that the Vitality Series forms a crucial part of preparation for final squad selection going into the global showpiece.

"The series is for both teams [Jamaica and England] to see where we are at. We didn't get an opportunity to play them [England] at the Commonwealth Games, and I know that they are doing some rebuilding.

"And so it is really an opportunity that we have to take a squad in where we can blend in some of the new players and give them some international exposure, hoping that they will build on it for the final cohort for the World Cup," she said.

Francis added: "I am very proud, especially of the young ones. I know what the senior players can do, but when you see the young ones out there fighting for a place, you know this is really great joy. We want really good competition. We don't want it to be easy to make the final cut."

As of November 3, the Sunshine Girls were ranked fourth in the world, while the England Roses were ranked third.

FRANCIS...the main focus is to try to get a combination and give everyone a chance to get some game time and ensure that they are healthy going into England and just give of their best (Photos: Karl McLarty)
BY RUDDY ALLEN Staff reporter ruddya@jamaicaobserver.com

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