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Francis : I want to be first choice

Stacey has been speaking to BBC Sport about her inclusion in the South African Roses squad.

The 31-year-old, who had become mainly a squad player, left the national team set-up because she did not feel she was “contributing enough”.

But now Francis wants to add to her 66 international caps – starting with the three-match South Africa tour which starts on 29 November.

“If you’re hungry, fit and fast enough, that’s all that matters,” Francis said.

“And I strongly believe the best netball I have to offer is still in me.”

And she thinks, with players like Jade Clarke still playing internationals at 36 coming back at 31 is not an issue.

“People talk about age a lot in netball and I find it so annoying,” she added.

Francis’ decision to step away from England in September 2017 meant she missed out on the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

But instead of feeling resentful of the Roses’ gold-medal winning success, Francis says her decision was “justified”.

“I watched the final and England won the gold and I didn’t feel ‘oh my god I should have been there’,” she told BBC Sport.

“I didn’t feel like I had missed anything as I felt like I hadn’t been contributing enough – it was bringing out the worst out of me and others deserved the chance to play for England.

“There’s a fine line between biding your time and sitting on the bench – [but] a change of personnel and leadership and a significant period of time has passed and has made me excited to put myself forward.”

Francis, who joined Super Netball’s West Coast Fever in 2017 after more than a decade at Superleague side Team Bath, says she felt like the “new kid” at England training on her return, despite being one of the most senior members of the squad.

And during her time in Australia, Francis got engaged to Loughborough Lightning head coach and former England team-mate, Sara Bayman, 34.

Fans have embraced the netball power couple as ‘Frayman’, but Francis said she has never felt the need to be a spokesperson for same-sex relationships.

“It just happens to be a netballer that I fell in love with,” she added.

“It’s a lovely thing if people take comfort in our relationship and if it helps just change perceptions of same-sex relationships to being normal.”

But their busy schedule means it has been a tough start to their relationship, with the couple spending eight months of the year apart.

“I think Sara proposed to me because she thought it would make me come home,” joked Francis.

For now, Francis is focused on her immediate future with England – but she has not ruled out being involved in the Nations Cup on home soil in January and then the 2022 Commonwealth Games in her hometown of Birmingham.

“I’m excited and invigorated,” she said. “I can’t look away from the fact that the next Commonwealth Games are in Birmingham.”

Full article online here