England coach Tracey Neville praised her players for responding to the “heart-breaking” loss of Layla Guscoth due to injury as they cruised past Samoa at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Guscoth, who suffered a ruptured Achilles against Scotland on Saturday which has ruled her out of the rest of the tournament, watched from the bench as her team-mates ended the preliminary phase with a processional 90-24 win.
Neville admitted the loss of the popular Guscoth had hit the team hard, saying: “Of course there were tears from everyone. There was nothing wrong with showing emotion because she means a lot to us.
“Layla touches the heart of everyone in the group. She is one of the biggest personalities and influencers. I think if we hadn’t shared that emotion I would have been really worried within the group.”
Guscoth was rushed back from a hospital scan in order to sit on the sidelines in Liverpool, as Neville continued her rotation policy ahead of the much tougher second phase of the tournament ahead.
Having scored from 39 consecutive goal attempts, Jo Harten was rested for much of the third quarter with Rachel Dunn once again stepping in for the second part of the match, and Jade Clarke promoted in Guscoth’s absence to starter at wing defence.
If group minnows Samoa were unable to muster much resistance, much sterner tests now loom for England in the six-team second group phase, where clashes against potential contenders Jamaica and South Africa await.
Having also brushed aside Uganda and Scotland in front of a sell-out home arena, there is a real sense of the England team gaining momentum, encapsulated by the return to prominence of the 35-year-old Clarke.
Playing in her fifth World Cup, Clarke, who made her international debut in 2002, can expect to feature more prominently in the competition but she insisted thoughts for Guscoth would not stray far from her mind.
Clarke said: “What happened to Layla is devastating but now it’s all about how we react to it. It could make us or break us and we have decided that it will make us – it’s fuel to the fire.
“We haven’t looked far forward in the competition but for us, the tougher games the better. If we’re going to be world champions we need to beat everybody so that’s how we’re looking at it.”
England were due to discover later on Sunday who they would face in their first second-round match on Monday. They are also projected to play on Wednesday and Thursday as they target a place in the semi-finals.