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By Andy Baber
Defending champions England are building nicely at the Commonwealth Games but will need to be at their best against world champions New Zealand, according to Helen Housby.
The Red Roses maintained their perfect record at the Commonwealth Games with a comfortable 56-35 win over Uganda, making it four from four to book their semi-final berth.
Jess Thirlby's team will finish either first or second in Pool B, with a duel with world champions New Zealand at The NEC on Thursday night set to decide which team tops the group.
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
And Housby, who scored the last-gasp goal that secured the gold medal in 2018 on the Gold Coast, believes the hosts are trending in the right direction at Birmingham 2022.
“I do feel like we’re building, I feel like we’re getting harder and harder opposition and it’s posing a lot of challenges for us so that’s a good place to be,” said the 27-year-old.
“And you don’t want go too far through a tournament without feeling like you’ve been challenged too much so it’s good to feel that pressure and that physicality today.
“I definitely think we’re building and it’s nice to get everybody out on court and have a lot of different combinations that we can play. New Zealand are a classy side.
“They keep the ball really well, they are range-y in defence, their defensive structure is a bit different to most other teams, you know they are going to bring it. They are the reigning world champions and have a lot going for them. We will need to be at our best.”
England put the pressure on early to open up a 25-15 lead over Uganda by half-time before a strong third quarter put the game out of Uganda's reach at Birmingham’s NEC.
But Housby was not convinced by the Red Roses’ performance, suggesting there is still plenty of room for improvement ahead of their final group game with the Silver Ferns.
"To be honest I felt a little bit up and down. It took me a little bit to settle into the game. They were quite physical and it's sometimes a bit difficult to adapt to that,” he said.
“I think you have to change your structures, change your timing a bit but they are a really quality side and to have that kind of margin at the end of the game is quite impressive from us.
“It’s probably higher than the margin we had at the World Cup so they are obviously a very good side and they always bring it to you but there are always things to work on.
“But overall, I think we're pretty pleased with that. The rest day will be about ice baths, massage, getting the legs up, compression, just trying to do anything you can to stay fresh.
“We’ve still got New Zealand and then semis and hopefully the finals. There is a lot of games in a short period of time so whatever recovery you can get you have to maximise.”
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