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Commonwealth Games: England Vitality Roses selection will come down to form, says Jess Thirlby

Jess Thirlby is leaving selection as late as possible to give players a full Vitality Netball Superleague season and as much of the Suncorp Super Netball and ANZ Premiership campaigns as possible; England are the defending champions at the Commonwealth Games, which start on July 29

Jess Thirlby is keen to see her England squad take on the unique style of the Sunshine Girls
Image: Jess Thirlby has said she will be selecting on form for this summer's Commonwealth Games

Jess Thirlby, England's Vitality Roses head coach, says selection for this summer's Commonwealth Games will come down to form.

The Vitality Roses head into the competition, which start on July 29 in Birmingham, as the defending champions after their triumph on the Gold Coast in 2018.

It will be Thirlby's first Games as England's head coach since she took over from Tracey Neville and the former international has worked hard at developing England's strength in depth.

Across the Vitality Netball Superleague, Suncorp Super Netball and ANZ Premiership, more English players than ever are putting their hands up for selection and Thirlby's options are vast.

Commonwealth Games - July 29 to August 7, NEC Arena

Group A Group B
Australia New Zealand
Jamaica England
South Africa Malawi
Scotland Uganda
Wales Trinidad & Tobago
Barbados Northern Ireland

"We're not settled on a 12 and I don't think that we need to be," she said on the Vitality Netball Superleague's show 'Off The Court'.

"Most probably, for the last 12 months, we've had 18 to 20 players who are pushing [for selection]. It will come down to form and for that reason, we're leaving our selection for the Commonwealth Games as late as we can."

Commonwealth Games - England's match schedule

Friday, July 29 England vs Trinidad and Tobago
Saturday, July 30 England vs Malawi
Monday, August 1 England vs Northern Ireland
Tuesday, August 2 England vs Uganda
Thursday, August 4 New Zealand vs England

England's opening match of the competition is on July 29 against Trinidad and Tobago. They then face further Group B matches against Malawi, Northern Ireland, Uganda and New Zealand.

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"Our selection [for the Commonwealth Games] will be shortly after the Superleague Grand Final on June 5, publicly it might be a little bit longer after that, but it's really exciting times.

"We're giving all of the players a full Superleague season and, by doing that, we're also giving those who are overseas as much of their season as possible to show that they're in form, and allow us to think if they're the right people to reconnect with the players here in the UK."

With a wealth of experienced England players plying their trade in Suncorp Super Netball, Thirlby's assistant coach Sonia Mkoloma is out in Australia and has recently visited George Fisher in New Zealand too.

England's technical coaches - Olivia Murphy and Liana Leota - are in the thick of the Vitality Netball Superleague season with Loughborough Lightning and Severn Stars. Thirlby has said that their coaching WhatsApp group makes for "very interesting reading" right now.

From a personal perspective, Thirlby's mind remains open about players who continue to impress her while playing their domestic netball. The fact that continues to happen, reinforces her decision to leave selection as late as possible.

One of England's most talked-about young talents is Funmi Fadoju, who is almost back from injury with London Pulse, and Thirlby is keen to keep the pressure off Fadoju.

"I agree with everything everyone says; I think she's a huge talent which is why she was in and around the [full-time] programme last year," England's head coach said.

"The one thing I would appeal to people is what you see on a court for 60 minutes is one thing, but there's a whole narrative under there about helping to manage these young players.

"Funmi is an incredible talent and we just need to make sure that with all of the young talents, we support them accordingly.

"That means that, if and when they break through, they're here for good and they don't get elevated too soon, without the necessary support around them.

"What an incredible impact she's had and actually, it's almost has taken attention off other people in that team. Zara Everitt... don't underestimate what she does which enables Funmi to come out with the ball."

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Shortly, Thirlby will announce the athletes who will be part of the full-time programme for the 2022/23 season. The programme features athletes based in England and overseas.

The England Roses Futures athletes have previously been named at the same time too. This programme allows players to balance dual careers, such as full-time education or work, alongside their commitment to developing as an athlete within the Roses set up.

Thirlby's 12-athlete Commonwealth Games squad, as the head coach stated, will be announced following the conclusion of the Vitality Netball Superleague season.

The Grand Final takes place on June 5 at the Copper Box Arena in London, live on Sky Sports, with the play-off matches taking place the day before.

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