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World Team Championship Underway In New Zealand

Official website:

Official website:

World Team Championship Underway In New Zealand

The 17th Women's World Team Squash Championship is officially underway after today's opening ceremony at the International Pacific College (IPC) in Palmerston North, New Zealand

Players and officials from the 16 competing countries have been treated to a unique cultural experience, in a city now being dubbed the Squash Capital of New Zealand.

Blazing pois, a traditional Maori kapa haka group and a melodious performance of the New Zealand national anthem by the Manawatunes highlighted the ceremony, although the best was saved for last with the IPC drummers providing a dramatic climax to the proceedings.

France's Isabelle Stoehr had earlier provided her own impromptu entertainment, breaking into the cancan as the French team were accompanied onto the court by the famous chorus line tune, while the South African team were all smiles as they marched in to the beat of Hakuna Matata.

However, the loudest applause was saved for the New Zealand quartet of Jaclyn Hawkes, Joelle King, Shelley Kitchen and Tamsyn Leevey, who strolled onto the court to the iconic kiwi song Slice of Heaven.

The ceremony over, the players now turn their attention to the court, with the first round of pool play underway tomorrow.

Despite the last-minute withdrawal of squad number two Alison Waters through injury, England retain their top seeding.

Championship Technical Director Manan Mashruwala announced that there will be no resultant change to the seedings, as per the World Squash Federation rules. He says England remains one of the top four teams at the event, and under WSF regulations, if the team affected does not drop outside the top four, the status quo remains.

1st qualifying round - Pool A:
[1] ENGLAND v [9] USA
Pool B:
[7] IRELAND v [10] INDIA
Pool C:
[6] FRANCE v [14] MEXICO
Pool D:

England Suffer World Team Championship Blow

Top seeds England have suffered a major blow on the eve of next week's Women's World Team Squash Championship in New Zealand.

World number three Alison Waters has been forced to withdraw from the team due to injury. The squad number two from London is still struggling with an Achilles injury sustained during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Sarah Kippax, the world No24, has come into the England team as a replacement - and has already joined her team-mates Jenny Duncalf, Laura Massaro and Tania Bailey in the North Island city of Palmerston North.

Whilst this is unlikely to have any impact on the tournament seedings (the World Championship Rules stipulate that they would need to move out of the top four for a change to be made), a decision from the World Squash Federation seeding panel is expected soon.

England coach Fiona Geaves is philosophical about the loss of Waters. She says it is obviously a major blow to lose their second string player, but these things happen in squash.

"We've still got a strong squad so we're still coming into the tournament believing we can win the event," explained the former world number five.

Geaves says Waters is understandably disappointed.

"I've spoken to her - she's been texting the girls wishing them good luck of course. It's always a bitter thing not being part of a World Team Championship when you know your team has a very good chance of winning the event."

Kippax arrived in New Zealand a day after her teammates, with team management taking the precaution of flying her to Palmerston North just in case Waters was ruled out. Geaves says that has turned out to be a good decision.

"New Zealand for us is obviously a very long way (to travel) - if it was in Holland we know that we could call whoever we want and get them over, but with this trip we thought, just to cover ourselves, let's get an extra player just in case."

Kippax is excited about representing her country, albeit at the expense of an injured teammate. The 27-year-old only found out late last week that she may be needed in New Zealand, but has arrived ready and raring to go. She says she is playing well at the moment and her fitness is good so hopefully that will show on court.

"Obviously it is a big blow to the team to lose Alison - she is one of the world's best players. But hopefully I can just do my best and bring a little bit of extra strength to the team."

The biennial week's Women's World Team Championship, featuring 16 nations, will be staged for the 17th time since 1979 at SquashGym in Palmerston North, from 29 November to 4 December.

Six-time champions England finished as runners-up in 2008 in Cairo, where Egypt celebrated a popular maiden triumph on home soil.

 Official website: www.womensworldsquash2010.co.nz