Vitality Netball Legends Series: England ready to compete after Covid stopped play

Fran Williams in action for England
England's series defeat by New Zealand in October and November was their first international competition since the coronavirus outbreak

England Netball will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic "really strong and ready to compete", says defender Fran Williams.

The Roses have played just three international games since the outbreak of the virus.

They face a Superleague All Stars team in a three-match series starting on Wednesday.

"It's a good opportunity for us to look at ourselves and focus on how we can be better," Williams, 23, told BBC Sport.

"We've had amazing opportunities to work on things as a team, core time spent training together whether that be virtually or in camps, so I feel like the desire and the raring to go from us is going to let us compete on a whole other level with other nations who have maybe been able to carry on more than we have.

"So many other countries have been affected but I definitely think England Netball will come out of this really strong and ready to compete."

The Vitality Netball Legends Series against the All Stars will be played behind closed doors and replace England's fixtures against Jamaica, which were postponed over coronavirus concerns.

That series was to be England's first home international netball competition since the start of the pandemic.

Jess Thirlby's Roses have kept the same squad for the games, while the All Stars squad, coached by Manchester Thunder's Karen Greig, will be captained by Severn Stars' Liana Leota.

"The creativity and perseverance of everyone at England Netball to put this on has just been great, in terms of finding a solution so we've still got netball out there for our netball family and fans who are watching and supporting and deeply missing netball," Williams added.

"Normally training is so focused on a specific style, but against the All Stars we're going to face so many international styles of netball, different plays and structures, so we're going to have to be adaptable as a team, and that's good practice for major competitions like the Commonwealth Games and World Cup."

England will play in special dresses that feature the name of someone who has impacted their careers under the England badge.

"I picked my mum, Helen Williams, who has just been my rock ever since I started playing," said Wasps Netball's Williams.

"She's supported me in more ways than she could imagine, physically with everything she's done driving me around from a young age, supporting me at games, but also mentally, always being my escape and coping mechanism away from the madness that is elite sport.

"I know how much it will mean to her and all the people the players have chosen and it's a great way to celebrate so many of the amazing people we have in our netball journeys."

England squad: Eleanor Cardwell, George Fisher, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Helen Housby, Laura Malcolm, Serena Guthrie, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Beth Cobden, Jade Clarke, Imogen Allison, Fran Williams, Razia Quashie, Vicki Oyesola, Layla Guscoth.

All Stars squad: Gezelle Allison, Caroline O'Hanlon, Gia Abernethy, Jo Trip, Joyce Mvula, Liana Leota, Loreen Ngwira, Natalie Panagarry, Rebekah Robinson, Samantha May, Summer Artman, Yasmin Parsons, Fionnuala Toner.

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