Willstrop feels at home as England get ready

James Willstrop
James Willstrop
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JAMES WILLSTROP hopes familiarity with his surroundings at the World Team Championships in France this week can help inspire England to victory.

The world No 3, from Pontefract, is part of an England team seeded second for the event behind defending champions Egypt, who boast recently-crowned British Open champion Ramy Ashour in their ranks.

Sheffield’s Nick Matthew joins Willstrop in the England team, as well as Daryl Selby and Adrian Grant, with Peter Barker having withdrawn through injury.

England, who last won the biennial event in 2007 – and did not even reach the semi-finals in 2009 – begin their campaign in the border town of Mulhouse tomorrow with a Pool A opener against rank outsiders Colombia.

Further group games follow over the next two days against Canada and Namibia before the arrival of the knockout stages.

For Willstrop, a week in eastern France will be almost like a home-from-home, with the 29-year-old having played for Mulhouse on a regular basis in the French League. “I hope playing there will help me and the team in some way,” said Willstrop, who flies out today having spent the last few days at the National Squash Centre in Manchester going through final preparations with his team-mates.

“It’s a place that has put so much into hosting this event – I think it will be a great week.”

Despite being seeded to reach the final, Willstrop insists the England team cannot afford to look any further ahead than the group stages.

“The finals weekend is a long way away and we’ve got a lot of hard work to put in to make sure we get there,” added Willstrop, part of the England team beaten 2-1 in the 2011 final by Egypt.

“There are plenty of strong teams in this event and I would imagine France will have plenty to say in who reaches the final, not just because they are hosts but because they have, once again, got a very good team.

“This kind of event brings a different pressure in that matches are less predictable than on the PSA Tour. But we’ve prepared well and our team has got a good set-up.”