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Tuesday, August 04 2020 @ 02:58 am ACST

Axios Euro Cup Team Preview – England Dragonslayers

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The England Dragonslayers are the only home nations side making the trip to Bordeaux for this year's Axios Euro Cup. Coach Robert Fielder spoke to WFN about the highly-facied English side's chances, with the Slayers hoping to bounce back after a disappointing 3rd place last year.

The Journey

"3rd in 2012 wasn’t quite what we’d planned for, but that’s the beauty of sport. We didn’t quite find our rhythm on the day, in control of the semi, two inaccuracies and it was all over. Since then, there has been an influx of new players and we’ve just finished our successful 2nd national weekend training camp.

"The camp is a superb opportunity to develop 30 players from all around the country using video analysis, game sense practices and games, plus a probables v possibles match to make final selection easier. There are a some established players whose circumstances have changed and hope to push for places next year."

"Finance and flexible employers (many are not) are a big issue for many players and especially staff potential attendance at these tournaments. It would benefit all to be recognised as a NGB sport to enable all the hard working volunteers in the sport to perform with at least one less hand tied behind their back. Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to what will be a tournament as exciting as ever."

The Preparation

The England Dragonslayers has tended to represent a large number of players from regional England, and doesn't have a great deal of overlap with the Bulldogs side from Dublin this year, with Fielder saying the 9-a-side game is a different environment.

"Many players from AFL London don’t play 9-a-side. It’s hard to transfer from 18’s to 9’s as the lightning game is less forgiving. We have selected 15 of the 16 places from the camp, specifically to reward those committed. A number of established players are there, plus exciting new players who will probably challenge for Bulldogs places, finance dependent."

"Ian Baxter has come on board to manage the team. Ian has plenty of experience, playing for many years in Edinburgh and recently setting up new Tyne Tees Tigers team. Matt Jaggar has been a great step forward in media. We’ve had packaged video that we can receive immediate feedback and use to analyse. Clare Avenell will be sorting out the ailments and keeping the lads' bodies on the right track."

The Squad

The 2013 Dragonslayers squad includes Ian Mitchell (Captain), Sean Walton, Paul Francis, Matt Whiteley, Matt Kilheeney, Rory Auld, Ross Ashman, Alastair McKinnell, Mark Todd, Luke Booth, Lee Tarn, Jack Wood, Graham Bickerdike, George Dibble, Steven Maguire and Tom Stewart - the last four of which are new to the Dragonslayers.

Fielder says "These lads all offer many different attributes, the most important being energy and drive, plus a conception of our methods and plays from the camp. It’s also great to see speedy McKinnell (2009-2011) and goal machines Todd (2007-2010) and Tarn (2008-2009) returning to the Slayers. Their experience could be the vital part of our campaign. Booth, Auld and Wood are playing great footy. The backbone of Mitchell, Walton, Francis, Whiteley, Kilheeney and Ashman will keep us in any tough match."

The Goal

The Dragonslayers have their eyes firmly focussed on the Cup. Says Fielder, "we’re very focussed on our own performance, if we perform to our ability it’s going to take a fine team to stop us."

The Final Word

The English have been powerhouses on the European 9s scene for many years now. With some seasoned campaigners such as Mitchell, Walton, Booth and Tarn onboard, they are a definite shot at coming home champions.

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