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New Zealand men's hockey coach Colin Batch has selected a young side to compete at the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia next month.

 

Cory Bennett (North Harbour) and Nick Ross (Midlands) are set to make their Black Sticks debuts while Isaac Staples (Canterbury) has been included after an impressive showing at the recent national training camp.

Defender Dean Couzins will again captain the Black Sticks, who edged Argentina 1-0 to win last year's Azlan Shah final.

Batch has taken the opportunity to give several up and coming players valuable experience ahead of key tournaments later this year.

"We are coming off an extremely positive training camp with a number of new players performing well who certainly deserve their place in the team," he said.

"The camp was a really encouraging gauge of where everyone is at and I am impressed with the quality of young talent we have coming through. Tournament experience is a crucial part of developing future success and Azlan Shah will be another step forward in that plan."

Debutant Ross, who has come into the side from the national development squad, said he was excited about being named in the team. He continues a family tradition, with father Dave a former Black Stick and sister Courtney in the Junior Black Sticks wider squad.

"Colin told me after the last session at training camp that I'd made the side. It was a bit of a surprise but I was really happy when he told me," the 22-year-old midfielder said.

"I've worked pretty hard all summer and it was a goal of mine to be selected for the Azlan Shah team. I can't wait to make my debut and start collecting some caps in what I hope will be a long career.

"I'd love to be able to go well at Azlan Shah and consolidate a spot with my long term goal to play at the Rio Olympics in 2016."

Veterans Phil Burrows, Shea McAleese, Nick Haig, Richard Petherick and Brad Shaw all impressed at the week-long training camp but are being rested for New Zealand's first tournament of 2013. This also allows players to compete for their European club sides.

Simon Child, Nick Wilson and Steven Edwards declared themselves unavailable for selection due to European club commitments with Rotterdam HC.

The Black Sticks open their Azlan Shah account against Pakistan on March 9 with Australia, India, Korea and Malaysia also taking part in the tournament.

Team: Cory Bennett (North Harbour), Marcus Child (Auckland), James Coughlan (North Harbour), Dean Couzins (c) (Auckland), Andy Hayward (Midlands), Blair Hilton (Capital), Hugo Inglis (Southern), Stephen Jenness (Capital), Devon Manchester (Auckland), Hamish McGregor (Southern), Shay Neal (Northland), Arun Panchia (Auckland), Kane Russell (Southern), Alex Shaw (Auckland), Blair Tarrant (Southern), Nick Ross (Midlands), Jacob Smith (Capital), Isaac Staples (Canterbury).