Refreshed Diamonds ready to take on England

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Australia and England will renew their Commonwealth Games rivalry when the two-Test Real Insurance Netball Test Series kicks off this Sunday.

The two countries played arguably the match of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow earlier this year, with the Diamonds winning a one-goal thriller on their way to ending their gold medal drought.

Australia sealed a 49-48 victory in the dying seconds of the match after being pushed all the way by a gallant England side, who will be eager to show over the next two Tests why they’ll be a dangerous opponent at next year’s Netball World Cup in Sydney.

The Diamonds head into the two-Test series in Bendigo (19 October) and Canberra (22 October) coming off a 4-0 clean sweep of the Constellation Cup Series over New Zealand which wrapped up in Auckland on Wednesday night.

“We really need to hit the reset button after the Constellation Cup, it’s a been a long tour so the playing group will be given Friday off to rest before we continue our preparations on Saturday ahead of the first Test on Sunday,” Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said.

“We’re determined to win both games and I think we’re in a great position to do that.

2012 Quad Series Australian Diamonds v England in Adelaide“It’s going to be very hard, we know that, but this is a new blank canvas for us to create something new and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”

Australia heads into the series on the back of 17 consecutive wins against all countries since September last year.

“This group is really determined and they showed that in the final Constellation Cup Test on Wednesday night against the Silver Ferns where we were out of it until we kicked into gear in the last quarter,” Alexander said.

“The players have the capability to do that and they believe in themselves so we need to make sure we bring that determination and belief from the first whistle on Sunday.”

But the Diamonds will be without inspirational captain Laura Geitz for the series, who has returned to Brisbane for treatment on a knee injury she suffered in the final Test against the Silver Ferns.Rebecca Bulley has returned to the squad.

The full-strength English side, which arrived in Australia last Sunday, has spent the week in Sydney training and preparing for what should be a closely-fought series.

The line-up boasts some names well-known to Australian netball fans such as Geva Mentor, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Ama Agbeze, captain Jade Clarke and Jo Harten.

“We’re expecting physicality , intensity and a more Australian style of defence. We’ve analysed their defence very closely, they’re playing a lot of box, diamond and one-on-one defence so it will almost be an Aussie versus Aussie style of game,” Alexander said.

England has only tasted victory once from 19 previous Tests in Australia. That came on its first ever tour Down Under back in June 1981, when England won 41-34 in Sydney.

Overall, the Diamonds have won 58 of the 63 Tests played between the two countries since their first meeting back in 1956.

Bendigo will become the 11th Australian city to host an international Test match when the Diamonds and England meet at the Bendigo Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It’s the home town of Diamonds shooter Caitlin Thwaites while star defender Julie Corletto hails from Kerang, located just north of Bendigo.

“Bendigo’s an amazing sporting city, they’re fanatical about it, so it’s going to be fantastic to play an international Test there; the crowd are going to be in for a treat watching the world number one and three do battle,” Alexander said.

_MCA4052LiDiamonds wing defence Renae Hallinan said the team is delighted to be showcasing world-class netball to a new audience.

“We’re really looking forward to going to Bendigo and not only having that Melbourne crowd but the country Victorians behind us as well,” Hallinan said.

“We know they love their netball out there. It’s very exciting for Caitlin to be in front of her home crowd and, not only have her mum and dad, but the wider community there cheering us all on.”

You can watch both Test matches of the Real Insurance Netball Test Series live on FOX SPORTS and SBS 2.