Scotland women's hockey coach Chris Duncan reveals long-term goal to break into world's top 10

Scotland’s women hockey players are currently recharging batteries ahead of their Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, giving coach Chris Duncan time to reflect.

He is full of admiration for the way in which the squad has adapted from the previous regime, learning a new way of playing, and also working hard at their fitness.

They have been rewarded by going ten games unbeaten in the build-up, a significant statistic, and closed out their gruelling build-up with three wins against spirited and talented Italian opposition at Peffermill in Edinburgh.

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An enthusiastic crowd gave the girls a rousing send-off last week and now the focus is on the opening game in Birmingham against South Africa on Friday, July 29.

Scotland head coach Chris Duncan knows his team have a huge summer ahead, starting at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this month. Picture: Nigel Duncan

New Zealand and Kenya follow before a major test against Australia, ranked no 3 in the world, in their final group game at the University of Birmingham playing fields.

Only Kenya, ranked No 37 in the world, are below Scotland, rated No 18, in the list while South Africa are 16th and New Zealand seven places ahead of them.

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The Games schedule will be tough but Duncan, who is also head of hockey at Edinburgh Academy, knows his team is determined to travel south and put on a show.

He explained: “Our long-term aim is to break into the world's top ten. Yes, we realise how difficult that will be, but the girls are ambitious and are up for the challenge.

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"Our mindset is is to show the world what we can do at a major tournament. We have ambitions for the future, but we are determined to showcase our style of hockey to the world at this high-level event.

"We all appreciate that it will be hard as we are playing quality opposition, but we all want to be there and we desperately want to make a statement that we can compete with the best on our terms."

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The squad have until July 16 to tick over then then move into the pre-Games training camp at Peffermill before travelling south by bus on July 22 to settle into the Games village.

Looking back at the triple-header against Italy, in which they won two games – 3-0 and 3-1 in regulation time and drew 1-1 in the other, winning 3-1 on penalties – Duncan said they played a well-organised and spirited side with a lot of talent.

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He added: "The atmosphere at Peffermill was great, and the girls really appreciated the crowd coming and their enthusiastic support. The games were really good for us as Italy are a side which are unpredictable. The players had to react and think on their feet.

"Make no mistake, this was a much-changed Italy squad who came to play and they were one of the best sides we have met during the Games preparation period which goes back several months.

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"They were physical, they were quick, they were good on the counter-attack and they played as a team, not just as individuals, and that must have pleased their new coach.

"We came through that and we will face new challenges in Birmingham but we have shown that we can defend strongly and also deliver the ball to our forwards under pressure.

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"Basically, they solved problems on the pitch and they will have to do that in the Games matches. They also proved then can dig in and come from behind and, overall, we are in a good place."

There are one or two injury concerns but Duncan said Jess Ross is progressing and he is confident she will make it and he made special mention of the reserves.

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They will come into the squad if a player is injured before the competition starts on July 29. After that, no player can be inserted.

Duncan explained: "The reserves have been with us and will remain with us during our training camp. Their attitude has been exemplary and they will be ready if required.

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"They have played their part in our run of ten games unbeaten in the 13 we have been involved in since we pushed the re-set button in February. We've only had one defeat, that was to Ireland who are a strong side, and this record is something they all should be really proud of.

"We travel with confidence, we know there are tough games ahead, but we will be prepared and ready when the Games start. We want to win otherwise there is no point in going."