England Women’s National Team Director, Phil Collier, talks about the excitement in the squad, their three opponents, and expectations ahead of this weekend’s Fall Classic tournament.
Team England travel to the USA this weekend along with Canada, Australia and hosts USA for a weekend of round-robin matches, pitting the best teams in the world against each other just 9 months before the start of the 2017 FIL Rathbones World Cup.
The new US Lacrosse headquarters at Tierney Field in Maryland will play host to the Fall Classic, a new international tournament featuring the top four ranked teams from the 2013 World Cup.
The opportunity to take on three major rivals so close to a World Cup is something Women’s National Team Director, Phil Collier, is looking forward to.
‘The opportunity for more competitive opportunities at the top level is something I support. If you want to be the best, you have to play against the best and three tough games in two days provide us with more valuable playing experience as we prepare for 2017.’
Looking ahead to the matches, each team represents its own challenges for Collier and Team England.
The squad’s opening match on Saturday will see them take on a familiar foe in Australia, who England defeated 2-1 in a stunning series win in Melbourne back in July.
However, with assistant coach Trish Adams now taking over the top job from Sue Stefanos, their opponents are likely to be fired up to avenge the loss earlier in the summer.
‘England Australia games are always competitive and it will be interesting to see how their tactical approach may have changed over the last four months or so. They have also recruited a new strength and conditioning coach, so I can only imagine they will be coming at us fitter and better than before.’
After the successes in Australia, Collier indicated that the victory has definitely given the squad more confidence and belief in their potential.
‘Our team performance demonstrated the progress we have made over the last two years. We now have a quality squad with competition for places in all positions with a good balance of youth and experience.
‘Our strength and conditioning work is showing positive results and our playing strategy is coming together nicely. Scoring 13 goals twice against the Aussies was a real highlight for me with our new attacking play starting to bear fruit.
‘We know that we still have many areas where we can improve and will be working hard to do that over the next nine months.’
Another recent opponent of England is the USA, after the reigning World champions toured England in July in what Collier described as a ‘bruising defeat’ for the girls.
However, the team have regrouped and are ready to come back at the Americans stronger this time around.
‘We know that we can play better than we did in those games, and we will be looking to deliver a better performance on Saturday. All credit to them, you have to admire their athleticism and technical ability in every position, with 20 of the 24 players they used in those games, professional players.
‘But one of the strengths of our squad is a real desire to improve, a commitment to work hard and learn from every experience.
Whilst England’s have recent history against Australia and USA, the team’s final game, against Canada, will be a step into the unknown for Collier as he has yet to face the World cup runner-ups.
‘This will be the first time I have coached against the Canadian women’s team, and so while we will be aiming to put in a good performance, we will also be looking to learn as much as we can about them, ready for 2017’
‘They will have lots of box lacrosse players in their squad, so we can expect great stick work, a few tricks and smart game management’.
This level of competition against high-quality opponents has previously been unprecedented outside of a World Cup and will give the nations a chance to lay down an early marker for 2017.
The competition will be fierce, but the squad is raring to go and test themselves against the world’s best.
‘This will be my fifth overseas tour since taking the role and this will be the toughest test of all, but a challenge we’re really looking forward to’, commented Collier.
‘These games offer us a great opportunity test our playing strategy and tactics, to see what works against the world’s best.
‘We will have five days together as a squad, giving us rare quality time with the players and staff all together. The overall experience can only bring us closer together and strengthen us as a squad.’
Saturday 8 October
England v Australia – 4pm BST
England v USA – 9pm BST
Sunday 9 October
England v Canada – 2pm BST
All games will be live streamed for free at www.laxsportnetwork.com
Follow all the action from Team England at @englacrosse