James Carson’s journey around Europe will continue over the next two weekends when the Welsh indoor skipper joins the outdoor squad for a two-test series in Spain and then a three-match campaign in France.
The build-up to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April begins in earnest for the Welsh Men’s Hockey team when they tackle the world ranked No 8 side in Barcelona this weekend. The Spaniards were quarter-finalists at the 2016 OIympic Games in Rio.
The five matches will be vital in the selection process for the Gold Coast with head coach Zak Jones relishing the chance to run the rule over the candidates. For Carson it will be another foreign stamp on the passport, along with Andrew Seimann and Jack Trantor, after he led the indoor squad to a fourth place finish in the Division 3 championships in Cyprus last weekend.
After a stunning 2017, Wales rose to 24th in the world rankings to ensure they qualified for the 20-team tournament at the Commonwealth Games. They are drawn in Pool A alongside England, India, South Africa and Malaysia in Australia.
Only India (6th) and England (7th) are ranked higher than Spain, while the French are ranked at No 18 in the world. It means the games over the next two weekends will give head coach Zak Jones a good idea of the work his side needs to do before heading down under.
“As a group we are relishing the opportunity of pitting ourselves against the No 8 ranked side in the world. We are really looking forward to the challenge and fully appreciate that the margins for error will be very small,” said Jones.
“However, this level of competition is where this group aspires to be and this series is an important part of the squad’s development as we build towards the Commonwealth Games and the 2019 European Championships.”
“These two series against Spain and France are also hugely important in terms of both our preparation and selection for the Commonwealth Games. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the group responds to those dual challenges over the next couple of weeks.”
Wales v Spain
1st Test – Saturday, 20 January (15:30pm local time)
2nd Test – Sunday, 21 January (12:00pm local time)
Wales v France
1st Test – Friday, 26 January (14:30pm local time)
2nd Test – Saturday, 27 January (14:30pm local time)
3rd Test – Sunday, 28 January (11:00am local time)
Wales Squad: David Kettle GK (Teddington), Jack Tranter GK (Nottingham University), James Fortnam GK (Cardiff & Met), Gareth Furlong (Surbiton), Jonny Gooch (Hampstead & Westminster ), Dan Kyriakides (Reading), Hywel Jones (University of Birmingham), Ioan Wall (Cardiff & Met), Rhys Doherty (Richmond), Jacob Draper (Cardiff & Met), Lewis Prosser (Surbiton, co-captain), James Kyriakides (Southgate ), Andy Siemann (Richmond), Rob Mugridge (Oxted), Rhodri Furlong (University of Birmingham), Dale Hutchinson (Reading), Rupert Shipperley (Hampstead & Westminster), Owain Dolan-Gray (Reading), Alf Dinnie (Cardiff & Met), Steve Kelly (Hampstead & Westminster), Luke Hawker (Cardiff & Met, co-captain), Ben Francis (Reading), Rhys Gowman (Cardiff & Met), James Carson (Reading), Rhys Bradshaw (Cardiff & Met)
Meanwhile, the Welsh Women’s Squad are heading to Gran Canaria for a 10-day warm-weather training camp that will also include five friendlies against Scotland. Head coach Kevin Johnson has included Jodie Beddow (Cannock HC) and Izzie Howell (Neston South Wirral) for the first time.
Wales v Scotland Friendlies
Sunday, 21 January (16:00pm), Tuesday, 23 January (15:30pm), Wednesday, 24 January (15:30pm), Friday, 26 January (15:30pm), Sunday, 28 January (16:00pm)
Wales Squad: Leah Wilkinson (Holcombe, captain), Sian French (Bowdon Hightown), Beth Bingham (Holcombe), Danni Jordan (Buckingham), Delyth Thomas (Birmingham Uni), Ella Jackson GK (Buckingham), Eloise Laity (Buckingham), Emily Rowlands (Buckingham), Hannah Cozens (Buckingham), Izzie Howell (Neston South Wirral), Joanne Westwood (Holcombe), Jodie Beddow (Cannock), Julie Whiting (Bowdon Hightown), Natasha Marke-Jones (Clifton Robinsons), Phoebe Richards (Buckingham), Rebecca Treharne (Southampton Trojans), Roseanne Thomas GK (Holcombe), Rosie Bailey (Bowdon Hightown), Sarah Jones (Holcombe), Sophie Clayton (Clifton Robinsons), Tina Evans (Unattached), Xenna Hughes (East Grinstead)