Ralph Heading to Chile

Lee names 20-man-squad for Chile06.02.08

Jason Lee has named 20 men to travel to Chile next month for the crucial Olympic Qualifiers which will take place in Santiago between 1-9 March.

18 players can be named to participate in the tournament and Great Britain has selected 17 with one place undecided and two athletes travelling as reserves. Three athletes have missed out on selection from the training squad which was announced last year, the most notable of which is veteran Brett Garrard. 31-year-old Garrard ? who has 259 international caps to his name ? has been omitted because ?over the previous four months, the other players competing for a position in defence have been considered to have performed to a higher level? said head coach Lee. ?He is not being taken as a travelling reserve as we feel that the forward and midfield line are more prone to injury, so the travelling reserves have been selected to reflect that?.

Niall Stott has been named as a travelling reserve and Matt Daly and Stephen Dick will be fighting it out for the 18th spot. Lee commented ?Both players have been performing to a similar standard, but often inconsistently. It was felt that a decision between them couldn?t be made at this time and the next few weeks would be used to give them both the additional opportunity to improve their case for selection?.

The captaincy will continue to be rotated as has been the case in recent tournaments.

20-man-squad for Chile

The following 17 athletes will participate in the Olympic Qualifiers:
Richard Alexander (Surbiton) (England)
Jon Bleby (Loughborough Students) (England)
Jonty Clarke (Reading) (England)
James Fair (GK) (Cannock) (England)
Ben Hawes (Surbiton) (England)

Ashley Jackson (East Grinstead) (England)
Glenn Kirkham (East Grinstead) (England)
Richard Mantell (Reading) (England)
Simon Mantell (Reading) (England)
Ben Marsden (Surbiton) (England)
Alistair McGregor (GK) (Loughborough Students) (Scotland)
Barry Middleton (HGC) (England)
Graham Moodie (Western Wildcats) (Scotland)

Rob Moore (Surbiton) (England)
Mark Ralph (Kelburne) (Scotland)
James Tindall (Surbiton) (England)
Alastair Wilson (Beeston) (England)

The 18th place will be decided between:
Matt Daly (Surbiton) (England)
Stephen Dick (Inverleith) (Scotland)

The following player will be taken as a travelling reserve
Niall Stott (Kelburne) (Scotland)

The six team tournament ? which also includes India, Bangladesh, Chile, Austria and Mexico ? is Great Britain?s last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games later this year and with only one place available, GB will have to be at their best to make it to Beijing.

Lee is optimistic about his side?s chances and says that the combination of Scottish and English players ?has meant that competition for places is tougher than at any other point over the last three years?. He is pleased with the work that the players have put in and commented that ?over the last four months, the squad has trained exceptionally hard and I think they really couldn?t have put in more effort. They are certainly more mentally and physically resilient as a result. The group is playing to a higher standard than before which means that we are in the best possible shape going into the qualifier and there is a good degree of confidence that we will win the tournament and qualify for the Bejing Olympics?.

Great Britain will open their campaign against Mexico and will then take on Bangladesh and Chile before what is seen as the crunch match against their biggest rivals India on the 6 March. Their last round-robin match sees them take on Austria before the final takes place on 9 March.

Lee will fly out with the squad but will return to England briefly for the birth of his second child before returning to Chile for the remainder of the tournament.

Great Britain will be playing their last competitive matches before Chile this weekend when they take on Poland ? who are also preparing for their own qualifying campaign ? in front of a sell-out crowd at Reading Hockey Club on Friday evening at 7pm, and at Bisham Abbey at 3pm on Saturday. The 20 athletes have been named in the squad to face Poland.