Williamson returns to Lionesses squad

Leah Williamson has been named in an England Women’s squad for the first time since returning from a serious knee injury.

England captain Williamson, who was forced to sit out last summer’s Women’s World Cup after suffering an ACL rupture, returned to action for the Gunners in late January after a nine-month lay-off, and is now back in Lionesses contention for the upcoming friendlies against Austria and Italy in February.

It is the first time the Arsenal defender will feature in an England selection since the team lifted the Women’s Finalissima trophy in April 2023.

Jess Park, who last featured for the Lionesses in October, has also been included in the 23-player group.

England's Beth Mead celebrates with team-mate Georgia Stanway
Beth Mead (left) has only recently returned to the England fold after overcoming the same knee injury as Williamson

Millie Bright and Bethany England are out injured while there is no room for Nikita Parris despite a good run of form for Manchester United.

This will be the final camp before England’s qualification campaign for Euro 2025 begins in April – the draw for that competition takes place on March 5.

Head coach Sarina Wiegman said: “This camp is where the road to Euro 2025 in Switzerland begins. Playing against strong teams like Austria and Italy is just the preparation we need before we kick off our qualifying campaign in April.

“I am really looking forward to getting back on the grass with the squad.”

Wiegman discusses Williamson return, Parris omission

Sarina Wiegman says she's pleased to be able to include Williamson in selection but remains coy on captaincy
Sarina Wiegman says she’s pleased to be able to include Williamson in selection but remains coy on captaincy

On Williamson’s return, Wiegman said: “It’s really nice, especially for her. She’s back. She’s gaining minutes at Arsenal and doing well. It’ll be really good to see her in camp.

“She’s a very good player with great decision-making. She’s been out for a number of months, so is still building. I’ve seen other players step up [in Williamson’s absence].

Asked about Williamson’s continuation as captain, the Dutchwoman added: “It’s a new moment. We’ll start again, and have a conversation with the group.”

Speaking about Nikita Parris’ exclusion: “The competition up front is really high. I’ve made some other decisions for this camp, but I hope she can keep some consistency because we’re thinking about her again.

“I had a brief conversation with her yesterday, she understands. We’re in a luxury position with our options in forward positions. She knows we’re watching her very closely.”

On the disappointment of missing out on Olympics qualification: “December was devastating. We played two incredible games – I saw rhythm in the team and performances were really good. We can’t control what opponents do. We wanted to be on the other side and qualify, and we were disappointed. But we have the opportunity to play friendlies now to improve and develop. That’s good too.”

England Women squad in full

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Man Utd), Khiara Keating (Man City), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea).

Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Esme Morgan (Man City), Alex Greenwood (Man City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Maya Le Tissier (Man Utd).

Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jess Park (Man City), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Man Utd).

Forwards: Alessia Russo (Arsenal), Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal).

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