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Netball Nations Cup 2024: England start with victory over Uganda

Netball Nations Cup 2024: England start with victory over Uganda

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Defender Fran Williams was named England captain for the tournament

place: OVO Arena, Wembley and First Direct Arena, Leeds Dates: January 20-21 and 27-28

coverage: Commentary on all England matches on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds as well as the BBC Sport website and app

England began their Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a 62-56 win over Uganda at Wembley Arena.

The Roses led by one goal going into the final quarter but relied on their experienced players to get the win.

“We can definitely be a lot better than that,” said shooter Helen Housby, in her 99th appearance.

England will look to improve when they face 12-time world champions Australia in a repeat of last year's World Cup final on Sunday.

England missed out on the title to the world number one in Cape Town and live commentary will be available for the return match on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra from 16:00 GMT after Uganda take on 2019 World Cup winners New Zealand.

“Uganda came out and really gave it to us, but we can definitely be cleaner,” Housby said after the win.

“I have experience in this type of game and you have to be in the situation to learn how you will react. Some of these girls are still learning how to play in front of an audience like this.”

Uganda had never beaten England, are ranked seventh in the world and were expected to overcome them easily, but coach Jess Thirlby said “this was just the test we needed”.

The She Cranes appeared in a series featuring the world's best teams for the first time, maintaining their lead as World Cup runners-up with only four first-half goals separating them.

A difficult third quarter saw Housby moved to the bench after he appeared to suffer an injury towards the end of the second half.

Thirlby made changes, handing 19-year-old defender Jayda Bichova her sixth cap, and bringing on experienced players Natalie Metcalfe and captain Fran Williams to the bench, and the Roses lost their way as Uganda reduced the deficit to one goal heading into the final quarter.

But Thirlby had to turn to the bench again when the ship needed to be stabilized, and both Williams, Metcalfe and Housby – who confirmed after the match she had not suffered any injuries – returned in the final period to seal the win.

“I trust the team,” Thirlby told Sky Sports. “When you play a series when you have different teams coming in the next day, you have to deal with the game in front of you, and also think ahead about what it tells us tomorrow as well.”

Housby scored 20 goals, while Eleanor Cardwell scored 31 of her 33 attempts and youngster Perry Neal added 11 goals from the bench.

Commenting on the match on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, former England player Beth Cobden said: “The experience came in the end, maintaining control and moving up the leaders.

“It's about tomorrow looking at that consistency. You can't afford to make those mistakes against Australia – you will be punished for that,” he added.

The four nations will play each other once before taking on the final or third-place play-off on Sunday 28 January at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

Earlier on Saturday, Australia achieved a landslide victory over New Zealand, ranked second in the world, 63-50 in the opening match of the African Cup of Nations.

The young Silver Ferns side stayed within striking distance of the Diamonds for three quarters, but led by the impressive Liz Watson who made 44 runs in the circle, Australia ran away with the game in the final period.

Australia has won all eight titles it has contested since the start of 2022, including the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town.

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