Crista Cullen return praised by Kate Richardson-Walsh

By Sara OrchardBBC Sport
GB captain Kate Richardson-Walsh positive over Crista Cullen return

Crista Cullen's decision to come out of retirement for next year's Olympics is a major boost, according to Great Britain captain Kate Richardson-Walsh.

The defender, who has scored 32 times in 79 games for Great Britain, retired at the age of 27 after winning Olympic bronzeexternal-link at London 2012.

However, she will now join the squad for an autumn training camp.

"Whether Crista gets in the team or makes other players push themselves, it is a positive," Richardson-Walsh said.

Richardson-Walsh will lead England in this month's European Championship at the Olympic Park in Stratford, and describes Cullen as a real "presence".

Asked whether she thought Cullen's decision would help the team, the captain told BBC Sport: "In the short term that's hard to deal with but in the long term, with sending the best team possible to Rio in mind, it can only be a positive.

"At the same time, I think naturally as defenders there's the reaction that she could take my place."

Cullen has been working in Kenya since 2012.

GB and England coach Danny Kerry confirmed he had approached Cullen, 29, about ending her exile and said: "I called Crista, but I got a sense that she might have appreciated the call.

"Crista has got a big challenge ahead of her. She hasn't played competitive hockey for over two years, so she's got a two-month window to try to get her place back in the squad.

"Having someone like that vie for a place back in the squad creates a nice dynamic in the group. People can't become comfortable."

Many of the GB side will be playing when England and Scotland are among the teams competing in the European Hockey Championships being held at Lea Valley and London's Olympic Park from 21-30 August.