While all the eyes are on India’s World Cup opener in the late push-off, England and Wales will be tasked with warming up the crowd in the first-ever game at the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in a Group D clash here on Friday.
England will be the favourites against the tournament debutant, Wales, which is staking a place for itself among the giants of the hockey world. There is bound to be some familiarity as they line up at the national anthem with the players coming together for their club sides and the Great Britain program.
Wales co-captain Rupert Shipperley was part of the recent Pro League campaign with Team GB, which is undefeated in its four matches before the World Cup. Jacob Draper is the other player who has been involved with Team GB in the past.
England coach Paul Revington said, “Great Britain is always a unique entity. Everyone’s in the same locker room one week and then they’re playing against each other. We have full respect for all the Welsh players.”
Nearly every Wales player or staff spoken to on the match eve has reiterated that they are ‘not here to make up the numbers.’
“We want to give our best to win the games. We are here to entertain and win hockey games. There is no pressure on us,” said Wales head coach Danny Newcombe.
While Newcombe described the team’s style as a system-based approach, he will need to devise a plan to thwart England’s strong midfield and attack. Wales will rely on defender Gareth Furlong’s drag-flick ability as the key source of goals.
Forward Nick Bandurak, a late-bloomer on the international stage, will be the scoring threat and is the penalty corner specialist. Wales’ big ask will be to stifle the English creativity from the midfielders Zach Wallace, Phil Roper and Sam Ward.