Earlier this month Team GB met up in London for a training camp and three friendly games against tough opposition. – the Pan-American champions Argentina, Tunisia, the African champions, and South Korea, the Asian champions. All three have qualified for London 2012, along with eight qualifiers from Europe, where the standard is generally highest.
We got off to a really bad start and ended up losing 32-15 to Argentina, which was quite disappointing as we thought we’d be a bit closer to them than that. From our point of view, we didn’t have enough time to prepare. We start playing better when we’ve been together for two or three weeks, and we’d only been together for a few days. We hadn’t really gelled again as a team. Plus we had our usual injury crisis and we haven’t really got the strength in depth to cope – we had to call up two guys who hadn’t been involved with the international side for 18 months for the training camp such were the problems. Not what you need when you’re preparing to face some of the best sides in the world.
The Tunisia game that followed was a real baptism of fire. They came out of the blocks early and we again had a terrible start but the scoreline – 41-15 – doesn’t really reflect our performance. We played so much better against the Tunisians, created a lot more chances, but just couldn’t put it in the back of the net. I don’t know how many times we hit the post and their goalkeepers were in excellent form. So although the scoreline was disappointing we took a lot of heart from that. Tunisia have got a very good defence so to create that many chances was great. So that was something we took into the game against South Korea.
The Korea game was probably our best performance to date as a team. We again started a bit slowly, but we slipped into gear and ran them very close. The final score was 25-29 and we probably had opportunities to win the game, but our lack of experience began to show.
But we were happy to close the gap – South Korea beat Argentina and they weren’t far away from Tunisia – so on our day we can compete against these teams. And with the buildup leading into the Olympics we’ll be in a better position to give a good account of ourselves.
It was a high standard but that’s why we had these teams come and play us. There’s a good chance we’ll come up against them at the Games.
There’s no doubt that it’s a big challenge for us in the summer — to hit our target of a top-eight finish we’ll probably have to finish above two or even all three of those sides.