The Indian women’s hockey team was dealt a blow even before starting its campaign in the Hockey World League (round 2) here from February 18.

Experienced forward Poonam Rani, who suffered a hairline fracture on her toe during training a couple of days ago, has been ruled out of the competition. Even though there were chances of her recovering in time, the team management decided not to risk aggravating the injury and advised her rest.

India, however, remains a favourite in the six-team competition which will see the top two teams advancing to the semifinals of the World League. The semifinals would also be the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup.

India will face stiff competition from World No. 9 Japan, the highest-ranked team in the fray. But, the Japan squad has changed quite a bit since the London Olympics. — Special Correspondent

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