Preview | England v Ireland, May 22nd-23rd

20th May, 2021

The Road to Birmingham 2022 continues this weekend for the England Performance squad with a Test match against Ireland.

And the team will head to Essex County BC in high spirits following a fantastic training camp in Oxford last weekend.

“The Oxford camp was a great success and it was great to see the Para team training too. There was a good edge to all the matches and the players really got down to business” John McGuinness, Bowls England Performance Director, said.

Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd’s two-day Test will be the first competitive international bowls England have had since 2019, and the players are raring to go. “They are prepared,” McGuinness continued, “this will be a good test against a talented Irish squad, whose players are also looking to gain a place at the Games next year.”

The format across the two days will mirror what the competitors can expect at Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa, on the Commonwealth stage in 2022. McGuinness is hoping it will help him in the selection process, with just 10 bowlers making the final cut for Birmingham.

“It will be a useful measure to see where our players are in their quest,” the Performance Director commented, himself a silver medalist at Glasgow 2014.

Lorraine Kuhler is one of those hoping to reach Birmingham and there’s an added incentive – it would be her first appearance on the Commonwealth stage. “Of course I’m desperate to make the squad and be able to compete at my first Games, so am relishing the opportunity to play,” Kuhler stated.

Kuhler is no stranger to success, winning the women’s triples title alongside Jamie-Lea Winch and Sian Honnor at the 2019 Atlantic Championships, as well as many national titles throughout her career, but the chance to go for gold in 2022 ensures she will approach this weekend in determined mood.

“It’s a fantastic squad of players,” she said.

“I am under no illusions, the competition is fierce, so anyone going to Birmingham will have to earn their place. This weekend will be a good test and a big step of the journey.”

Bowls is certainly in the spotlight over the next few weeks. After the Ireland Test match, the Bank Holiday sees the much-anticipated Bowls’ Big Weekend. Over 650 clubs across England are hosting free Open Days, and the England players will be attending a number of their local sessions to support the initiative.

Before then, however, the team are expecting a tough test from Ireland – but the main emotion is happiness. “It’s been a long time since we played competitive international bowls,” commented Kuhler, “and I know the whole squad can’t wait to get their England shirts back on!”

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