Today at the National Hockey Centre in Cardiff, Wales play France in their first home international in nearly three years. For the national men’s team, these two fixtures this Thursday and Friday mark the start of their competitive preparation for FIH World League, as well as an exciting summer of international hockey in Cardiff.
Established Welsh Internationals Luke Hawker, David Kettle and Lewis Prosser share the captaincy for this international test series. Goal keeper David Kettle, who plays for EHL Premiership side Surbiton alongside Prosser, described the squad’s anticipation to play on home soil:
“It’s always an honour to pull on the national shirt, but playing internationals in Wales is extra special. We haven’t played as many home games recently as we would have liked, but when we do we always receive fantastic support from the Welsh public. Playing at home adds an extra dimension to an international and we hope to have the ‘12th man’ on our side this week. “
Luke Hawker, who was top goal scorer for Cardiff & Met this season, made his senior debut for Wales in 2012. This week however, will be his first international cap on home soil:
“This will be my first international cap at the National Hockey Centre in Cardiff, and one that I am looking forward to. Tradition says that there will be a strong crowd and a great atmosphere that will definitely contribute to our performance against what will be a strong French outfit.”
“It’s a great test for those who are new to senior international hockey, especially on home soil. The test matches will be challenging, but as last summer highlighted against strong nations like Austria & Scotland, we are more than capable of beating sides of this nature. We have a busy summer and the more players that are exposed to International Hockey can only be beneficial.”
Last summer at the EuroHockey Championships Division III, Wales were crowned champions and achieved their goal of promotion to Division II. This July, both Wales Men and Women will play Poland in their last home international before FIH World, the main focus of their competitive season. Kettle added:
“We are young in terms of age but a large proportion of the squad have been together for a while now so there’s experience to draw on. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to continue our development from the Europeans. We have a busy twelve months ahead and we’re really excited about the new guys coming into the group.”
Hawker’s fellow Cardiff & Met teammate Liam Brignull is set to hit the impressive 50th cap milestone at the second of the two test matches on Friday evening. He will be presented with the cap by Hockey Wales CEO David Phenis before the start of the match:
“We’re all delighted that Liam will win his 50th cap this week at his home ground. It’s a real asset that we have someone as experienced and talented as him in the group and I’m sure he’ll bring his A-game against France,” said Kettle.
In line to receive their first senior caps are Ioan Wall of Cardiff & Met, who is just 16 years old, Rhys Doherty of Loughborough University and Jonny Gooch from Birmingham University.
The test matches this week are FREE to watch and take place at the National Hockey Centre at Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff today at 14:00 and 18:00 on Friday night.
Keep up to date with the matches by following Hockey Wales on Twitter @HockeyWales.