CWMBRAN hockey ace Jacob Draper is heading Down Under after being selected for Great Britain’s opening 2020 FIH Pro League fixtures against Australia and New Zealand next month.

Draper, who was recently handed a full-time place in the GB men’s programme, is joined in the 22-man squad for the double-header by fellow Welshman Rupert Shipperley.

Shipperley is in line to make his GB debut having been called for the first time after impressing while training with the squad before and after Christmas.

Hampstead & Westminster’s Shipperley is no stranger to international hockey, having played 70 times for Wales since his debut back in 2014.

He also captained them to an impressive sixth place during the 2019 EuroHockey Championships.

And now he cannot wait to pull on a Great Britain shirt for the first time and step out alongside the rest of the squad in just a few weeks.

“I was absolutely buzzing when I found out,” he said. “It’s been something I’ve been working towards for a long time, so to finally get an opportunity to play is really exciting.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It will be nice to play with some of these players instead of against them in an international game.”

Britain’s men and women, whose 22-strong party features Welsh internationals Leah Wilkinson and Sarah Jones, face Australia on February 1-2 and New Zealand on February 8-9.

This will be the first time both teams experience the new FIH Pro League format, playing two double-headers away from home this season before hosting the southern hemisphere sides in next year.

Ashley Jackson, Mark Gleghorne, Liam Ansell, Luke Taylor and Chris Griffiths return to Danny Kerry’s men’s squad having not featured in the successful Olympic qualifier against Malaysia in November.

Kerry said: “I’m very excited to get going in the 2020 FIH Pro League with the slightly new format, which will also give us good information for Tokyo where we have some double-headers.

“Australia is a fantastic fixture. They are rightly one of the leading teams in the world and it’s always a fantastic game, so we’re looking forward to that.

“New Zealand have also got more of their older and more experienced players back so I’m expecting them to be stronger than our previous matches.

On Shipperley, he added: “He's been around the group for a little while now. He’s very athletic, has good technical skills and a fantastic work rate, and we want to expose him against some of the leading sides to see if he’s got what it takes.”

Mark Hager has selected all 18 players who saw GB’s women book their place at Tokyo 2020 by overcoming Chile at the end of last year.

Grace Balsdon, Esme Burge and Ellie Rayer also return, while Sarah Evans, Emily Defroand and Amy Tennant miss out through injury.

Hager added: "It’s a really exciting time.

"We’ve got good versatility in our squad. It’s exciting to be able to start and get under way.

“This is an opportunity for us to start well with some good challenges – Australia played in the Grand Final last year and New Zealand have got a few players who have come back which will be interesting.”