GBW Stef Collins 568Peter Buckle has warned Great Britain’s senior contingent that no-one’s place is guaranteed for this summer’s EuroBasket Women qualifiers.

The Australian takes charge for the first time on Saturday night in the first of two friendlies with Italy in Rome in 24 hours as the build-up begins in earnest.

With the Russian Federation reporting two further tune-ups in Moscow next week before GB return to Worcester for two closed-door clashes with Germany, it gives Buckle just six games, potentially, to ready a revamped roster ahead of 8 June’s opening qualifier with Belgium.

With Jenaya Wade-Fray and Chantelle Pressley becoming the initial two cuts, his hopes have been boosted with the arrival of Harvard sophomore Temi Fagbenle although the Italian job must be negotiated without Rachel Vanderwal and Dominique Allen who will not report until next week.

And Buckle believes that, despite the absence of a number of familiar faces, his reign can get off to a smooth start.

“We have a good core of the 2013 group so there’s still a lot of experience,” he said. “And we’ve added some nice young talent to go with that. And everybody’s working very hard.

“Everybody’s accountable. Every individual’s accountable for what’s going on. You have to perform your roles. But we’ve got the likes of Stef Collins, Rachel Vanderwal, Azania (Stewart), they have so much experience and there are also others who might step up.

“Certainly, every one in the group is vying for a spot. The younger ones coming in will put pressure on the older ones. And that makes all of us better.”

A number of newcomers will pick up first caps in Italy with Sydney Flames forward Kathryn Rendell a fresh recruit to the GB programme.

The 20-year-old was an unexpected call-up but Buckle has revealed that it was a former internationalist who opened that door.

“Natalie Stafford found her, just very recently,” he said. “Nat is coaching her in Sydney and when I called her up to talk about something else, she mentioned Kath qualified for Great Britain. She’s been on the bench in the WNBL and she’s part of the Canberra Capitals system.

“Very few people knew she was born in England and lived here for the first few years of her life but that’s great for us.”

Italy, who reached the quarter-finals of EuroBasket 2013, will deliver a stern examination for Buckle’s inexperienced team.

Better, he says, to jump in at the deep end than waste time paddling slowly in the shallow end.

“We’ve only had four days of camp,” he stated. “We’re playing a very good team. But we want to try and perform at the highest standard possible.

“We’ll give the 12 players the chance to state their case but it is also an opportunity to pick up some momentum and then come back next week and get on the training court.”

Meanwhile, British Basketball has signed a kit deal with Italian company Errea, replacing Adidas.

GB squad for Italy friendlies: Ella Clark, Stef Collins, Temi Fagbenle, Steph Gandy, Nicole How, Erin McGarrachan, Helen Naylor, Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby, Kathryn Rendell, Eilidh Simpson, Azania Stewart and Lauren Thomas-Johnson

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