Black Sticks coach Darren Smith is expecting a stern test for his team in the upcoming Four Nations men's hockey series against Belgium, India and Japan.
Black Sticks Shea McAleese (file).
Source: 1 NEWS
Smith has named a squad of 23 for the series, which runs from January 17-28 in Tauranga and Hamilton.
Midfielders Shea McAleese and Arun Panchia provide the bulk of experience, having played a combined 476 internationals, while there are also 11 athletes who have played fewer than 50 tests.
Smith says world No.3 Belgium have gone from strength to strength since winning silver at the Rio Olympics, while sixth-ranked India are also in top form after winning the Asian Games and finishing third in the recent World League Final.
Japan, ranked 16th in the world, are also improving rapidly and last year knocked over No.1 Australia at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with their direct and hard-working style.
"For our team, it will be the first time that we have been fully together since July 2017 with European club hockey and injury meaning that we operated deep into our extended squad through October-November," Smith said.
"This will allow us to give more opportunities and also get our team in order ahead of the Commonwealth Games in April."
Split across two separate five-day series, the Four Nations begins at Blake Park in Tauranga on January 17-21 before the teams head to Gallagher Hockey Centre in Hamilton from January 24-28.
Ninth-ranked New Zealand last played Belgium and Japan at the Hockey World League Semi Finals in Johannesburg, where they lost 2-0 and won 3-1 respectively.
The Black Sticks will also be hunting for revenge against India, who came away with a 4-0 win in their last clash at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year.
Black Sticks: David Brydon, Marcus Child, George Enersen, Daniel Harris, Hugo Inglis, Stephen Jenness, Richard Joyce, Dane Lett, Devon Manchester, Shea McAleese, Harry Miskimmin, Leo Mitai-Wells, George Muir, Dominic Newman, Arun Panchia, Jared Panchia, Hayden Phillips, Brad Read, Nick Ross, Kane Russell, Aidan Sarikaya, Blair Tarrant, Nic Woods.