Injury blow for England as Lauren James ruled out of France double-header

England boss Sarina Wiegman has been dealt a huge blow ahead of the Euro qualifier double-header against France after Lauren James was forced to pull out through injury.

The 22-year-old attacker reported for international duty with a foot injury and has had to admit defeat in her efforts to prove her fitness ahead of Friday night’s Group A3 fixture at St James’ Park and the trip to St-Etienne which follows on Tuesday.

Wiegman, who confirmed Tottenham’s Jess Naz had been drafted into the squad from the stand-by list as a result, said when asked if everyone was fit: “No, not everyone is available for selection.

“Lauren James didn’t make it, so she’s not selected for tomorrow. Jess Naz will be added to the group.

“She already had some foot problems at her club, so she came in and we hoped that we could build to tomorrow, but just too early, so unfortunately she can’t stay with us.”

Asked if that would apply to the return in France, Wiegman added: “Yes. She’s going to get prepared for the July window.

“Of course it’s a disappointment. We did everything, she did everything, it’s just too early now and it’s not good enough. You have to be really top, top fit to get ready for tomorrow.

“For her and for the team, it’s unfortunate. For Jess, she’s ready, she’s shown good stuff this week in training and with her club, so we have to move on.”

Leah Williamson alongside England manager Sarina Wiegman
Leah Williamson alongside England manager Sarina Wiegman (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Wiegman could pair Euro 2022-winning centre-backs Leah Williamson and Millie Bright together for the first time since February last year, with both having recovered from knee injuries.

Arsenal defender Williamson and Chelsea counterpart Bright have not started together for their country since a 6-1 demolition of Belgium at Ashton Gate.

However Williamson, who suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage in April last year, is taking nothing for granted, with central defence an area of strength for the Lionesses.

She said: “It’s the first time that, obviously, me and Millie have been back in the squad together for a long time, so it’s been nice in that regard.

“I think we’ve got a really strong unit – I mentioned coming back into the squad about how well they’ve performed and how they’ve raised the level, so it’s good to be back.

“It’s a competitive unit to try to get into. I’ll look forward to the challenge, I think, as everybody does.”

Alessia Russo trains ahead of England's meeting with France
Alessia Russo trains ahead of England’s meeting with France (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Meanwhile, Wiegman has applauded striker Alessia Russo for the condition in which she returned from club Arsenal’s gruelling post-season trip to Australia, from which Williamson and Beth Mead were excused.

She said: “It was not a very lucky moment or a very well-planned moment, I think, right before an international window, but it was the situation, we had to deal with it and you make the best out of it.

“I think the club did, we did, but most of all Alessia did and did everything that she could (to) adapt, the travel, the time difference and come back as fit as possible.

“She got support in that, she was looking for that too, so I think she did a great job coming in in a good place.”

England currently sit in second place behind the French in Group A3, having taken four points from their two fixtures to date, a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Sweden and a 2-0 victory in the Republic of Ireland in April.