(Photo: FIH)

England men's and women's hockey teams have a busy few months as they prepare for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. With a lot of squad changes since the 2012 Olympic Games, including a change in coaching staff for both teams, the emphasis has been on building and development. Captain of the England women's team, Kate Richardson-Walsh, spoke of the importance of ensuring the mix of youth and experience gels in the side, while the men's coach, Bobby Crutchley, said after his team's win in the bronze medal match at the Hockey World League that, while he was pleased with the result, there was 'still a lot of improvement to be made."

But before the World Cup build-up begins in earnest, most of the England players will be involved in the approaching climax to the domestic league. Over two weekend in April, the top four men's and top four women's teams battle it out for league supremacy. The matches will provide a tough and competitive environment as the players cross swords to determine the season's champions. 

On the international scene, both squads will have the chance to work on team cohesion and improvements across the pitch as they face a number of stern tests between now and the start of the World Cup on the 31 May. Jason Lee, who has moved from coach of the men's team to take charge of the women's team, took a squad of 30 to play the USA in a series of test matches in February. He will now have further opportunities to try combinations of players in matches against South Africa, Korea, Canada, Belgium and China. The women also compete in the Four Nations tournament in Germany in May.

Crutchley's men, who started the year with that Hockey World League bronze, will be playing Ireland in the Now Pensions Cup, before the Four Nations Cup in April, and friendlies against The Netherlands, Germany and Australia in the run up to the World Cup. However, with both the domestic and international commitments stacking up, the coaches will be looking on anxiously in the hope that their players make it to the Hague unscathed.