Diamonds lose acting skipper on eve of London double-header
AUYTRALIA have been rocked on the eve of their high-stakes netball Quad Series double-header in London, losing defender Gabi Simpson to a leg injury.
Accomplished wing defence Simpson took a blow during a midweek practice match against England A.
She will miss the Test against New Zealand at the Copper Box on Sunday (AEDT) followed by a likely series decider against England a day later.
Simpson had been promoted to on-court captain for the series after regular skipper and goal shoot Caitlin Bassett suffered a fractured forearm ahead of the series-opening win over South Africa.
Shooter Caitlin Thwaites will take over as on-court captain, with uncapped 21-year-old shooter Kiera Austin added to the 12-strong squad.
Simpson's starting spot is likely to be claimed by Jamie-Lee Price, who impressed in the 62-45 win over the Proteas.
Coach Lisa Alexander said the twin injuries would provide a test of her team's leadership and ability to cope with adversity five months out from the World Cup.
"This situation will provide a great opportunity for not only Kiera ... but for the rest of the team to step up in their respective roles and to lead from the front," Alexander said.
"We're building our momentum towards the World Cup and this provides a tremendous opportunity for our athletes to demonstrate why they should be in that team."
Australia are heavily favoured to maintain their run of dominance over New Zealand, having lost just once - in Hamilton last October - in the past 10 trans-Tasman Tests.
An England team at full strength hammered the Silver Ferns 54-41 last week and are confident they can repeat last April's win over Australia in the Commonwealth Games final.
Thwaites said both Tests would be challenging but the likely tournament-decider against the Roses would have the most riding on it.
"We want to kind of assert ourselves," she said.
"England knocked us off at Comm Games but if we can get another one up on them going into the World Cup, that'd be really great for us. We definitely know they want to do the same to us."