England dare to dream
England get their World Championship campaign under way on Monday and there is genuine confidence in the camp that this can be their year.
Last Updated: 02/07/11 1:52pm
England get their Netball World Championship campaign underway against Malawi in Singpaore on Monday and there is genuine confidence in the camp that this can be their year.
Defending champions Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and England are expected to top the four pool stages with the Trans-Tasman rivals once again favourites to contest the final.
But England co-captains Sonia Mkoloma and Karen Atkinson are convinced this year could be England's time.
Both veterans are playing in their fourth World Championship and both agree that this year has a different feel to previous campaigns.
Mkoloma told the official England Netball website: "It's not more important than the others; it's the same passion representing your country at World Champs. This one has a little buzz about it, not demeaning the others and all the girls we have played with throughout the time, but this has the buzz that this is the year that it can be done."
Asked why there is such a strong sense of belief in the camp, Atkinson added: "A variety of things. A lot of players have upped their game.
"A lot of players have worked on their weaknesses, whether its fitness or technical, a lot of players have got mentally tougher so we can be honest with players on the court, off the court and we can be really direct about what we need to do, how we need to get better."
Looking ahead to Monday's opener, Mavericks mid-courter Atkinson said: "We should be peaking throughout the tournament. We have 12 players that we can interchange throughout the first four games so that we can rest legs and be sharp for the semi-final.
"It's really important because you don't really hit tough opposition until the semis, so if are having patchy performances against lesser teams, you are going to take those patchy performances into the semis.
"The first three or four games are about playing as error-free as possible whilst trying things. We have talked about playing without fear because we want to take that into the semis."
England have lost recent Test series to to Jamaica and New Zealand, but Atkinson insisted: "I don't really read anything into this because teams have changed.
"Jamaica they are dealing without having Simone Forbes around, the Aussies have had a complete shake-up and for us we are similar to the Commonwealth team and I don't think those results really make a difference.
"We have had some good Test series and in Jamaica we should have won all three, we had a couple of inexperienced defenders in there who did a pretty good job at a really tough time and now having Sonia and Geva (Mentor) in there, it adds some strength in depth, so we are feeling confident."
After facing Malawi, England's other opponents in Group D will be Barbados and Malaysia.