England's James ruled out of Euro 2025 qualifiers

Lauren James

Chelsea forward Lauren James will miss England's Euro 2025 qualifiers against France with a foot injury.

The 22-year-old trained on Thursday but was not considered to be fully fit having carried an existing injury into camp.

Tottenham's Jessica Naz has been called up to the squad from the standby list.

"[James] already had some foot problems at club and we hoped she could build up but it’s just too early so unfortunately she can’t stay with us," said England head coach Sarina Wiegman.

"Of course it’s a disappointment. She did everything and we did everything but it’s just too early and not good enough. You have to be top, top fit to be ready.

"It’s unfortunate but Jess [Naz] is ready. She has shown good stuff this week in training and with her club - so we have to move on."

Friday night's fixture at St James' Park (20:00 BST kick-off) is the first of back-to-back games against qualifying group leaders France, ranked third in the world.

James will also miss the second fixture, to be played in Saint-Etienne next Tuesday.

Wiegman also lost defenders Niamh Charles and Lotte Wubben-Moy through injury this week but is able to select centre-backs Leah Williamson and Millie Bright together for the first time since February 2023.

"Of course that’s really good and really nice," Wiegman said.

"It says something about the quality in this team that there’s competition. Even before Millie came back in there was competition. I hope I have to make long, hard decisions."

'If we have to take favourites label we will'

Millie Bright and Leah Williamson in training
Millie Bright (left) and Leah Williamson (right) started every match together at centre-back as England won Euro 2022 [Getty Images]

England currently sit second in Group A3, two points off France, following victory over the Republic of Ireland and a draw with Sweden.

But despite sitting top of the group, France boss Herve Renard insists England are favourites in Newcastle.

"I think if you go off paper then obviously we are the reigning European champions of this tournament," said England captain Leah Williamson, when asked if she agreed with him.

"But it’s easy to forget we’re still in qualifying. A lot has changed. France have always been a top team despite having not won [a trophy].

"They are always tipped as favourites in many of their games. I see it as fairly even to be honest. But if we have to take that label then we do.

"That’s been a consistent for us. We knew winning would put a target on our backs but it’s a nice place to be."

France boost a squad packed with quality including three Lyon players who started Saturday's Women's Champions League final defeat by Barcelona.

"I mean, they're all obviously amazing individual players. They've all achieved a lot, in their own right," added Williamson.

"They are very pacy with a strong number nine, so I relish the challenge, but they're top players so we need to be at our best."

'We are not just here to visit Newcastle'

Kenza Dali playing for France
Kenza Dali has started back-to-back games for France in Euro 2025 qualifying [Getty Images]

Aston Villa and France midfielder Kenza Dali said it would not be a statement to beat England, despite wanting to replicate their success in major tournaments.

"It’s difficult to say if it would be a statement if we win. Obviously we want to win but it doesn’t give us a trophy," said Dali.

"They have the trophy we wanted and a final as well. It’s important obviously for us to win because we are first in the group and we want to keep that place.

"I think we are really similar. I don’t think the gap is big between us. It will play out on details."

Dali hopes to play a key role having started back-to-back games for France.

"It makes the individual performances a lot easier when you have the luxury to play with amazing players around you," said Dali.

"What changed for me as well is that I have a coach that trusts me now which makes my life a lot easier - when you feel you share the same values.

"It’s a massive statement for me. [Renard] has a lot of choices and we have an amazing team so when he picks me as a starter I try to give it back."

Renard managed Cambridge United in 2004 and says there is "big respect" for English football in France.

"We like the intensity on the field, the atmosphere in the stadiums," he said.

"When I was in Cambridge it was only League Two but the kids were going to schools with the Cambridge United shirts on.

"I was so surprised because for this level in France it is not exactly the same. This is the spirit for English football."

But Renard insists, despite stating England are favourites, that France are here to win.

"We are not here just to visit Newcastle. We are here to play a competitive game," he added.

"It will be a fantastic atmosphere and even when it’s against you it’s also pushing you. We know the atmosphere in the English stadiums are amazing so we’re looking forward to this very interesting game."