Maya Le Tissier has emphasised her determination to keep improving after returning to the England squad following the “bittersweet” experience of her summer.

The 21-year-old Manchester United defender was part of the Lionesses’ preparations for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but not their subsequent run to the final, having been named as one of two standby players that flew home as the tournament began.

Two-cap Le Tissier, who says it was “devastating” to not make Sarina Wiegman’s World Cup 23, is now back as a member of the first squad selected since, for matches in the inaugural Women’s Nations League against Scotland on Friday and the Netherlands four days later.

She said of her summer: “It was bittersweet. I loved Australia, loved being with the girls. I really enjoyed my experience out there, it’s such a cool country.

“Just being a small part of the preparation going into the tournament has definitely made me more hungry to be selected for the next tournaments to come.

“Obviously it was devastating when I got the call that I wasn’t selected in the 23, but there was nothing else I could really do apart from be as good as I could for the team and try to put myself in the best place I could, helping them prepare for the World Cup.”

Asked how desperate she was to make the cut for Euro 2025 – England players also have the target of next summer’s Olympics with Great Britain, qualification for which can be secured via the Nations League – Le Tissier said: “(I’m) extremely desperate, but it’s in two years – there’s a lot that can happen in two years.

“I just need to focus on playing football and getting better. I’m still young so I’ve got a lot of things to learn and improve on, so if I can do that, that’ll put me in the best place to be selected.

“I’m just focusing on the present, doing well in these next two games with England and starting the Women’s Super League season (on October 1).

“(I need to) just keep playing well and doing well for United, doing well when I’m here, and hopefully be a big part of the team in years to come.

“I think I can look at the players and take a lot from them, and see how I can develop.

“They’re European champions and they just got to a World Cup final. I’m very inspired by the rest of the team and I just have to perform, day in, day out, as well as I can and consistently.

“I’ve still got a long way to go, so it’s exciting to see what happens in the future.”

England kick off their Nations League Group A1 fixtures by playing the Scots at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.

Le Tissier said: “I think Scotland-England is a game everyone wants to be a part of.

“They want to beat us, we want to beat them, and it’s going to be an exciting game, especially up north. They’re massive football fans up there.

“I watched the men’s game the other day (a 3-1 win for England at Hampden Park) and it was a crazy atmosphere as well, so we’re really looking forward to the game.

“They’ve got some good players but we’ll be focusing on ourselves and seeing what we can do to beat them.”

After that contest, England then head to Utrecht for the Netherlands match.

England’s second row giants Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum have told Steve Borthwick they do not want to be rested against Chile.

Borthwick is expected to overhaul his starting XV against the weakest opposition England will face in their World Cup group campaign, taking the opportunity to give some of his stars a breather.

Itoje and Chessum have started the last three Tests together, including the Pool D victories over Argentina and Japan, and are candidates to be given the weekend off given the tougher assignments that lie ahead.

But Itoje is eager to retain his place in the starting XV – even though Chile are placed 22nd in the global rankings.

“I always want to play. I want to put my hand up for selection, I want to play for England. If there is an opportunity to play, I want to play,” Itoje said.

“You can’t take these moments for granted, you never know when the last time is that you’re going to play for England. I want to get as many caps as possible so I definitely would want to play.

“Steve has the big plan and he has to look after the whole squad, not just individuals. He is the final decision maker.”

The challenge facing Borthwick is to ensure his key personnel are battle hardened for the quarter-finals, which England have all but reached after dispatching the Pumas and Brave Blossoms.

Yet the break week each team observes at different stages during the World Cup means that after Chile their next assignment is the final group game against Samoa on October 7.

Itoje could therefore go three weeks without a game if he is omitted from the team that will be named by Borthwick on Thursday.

“A three-week break is neither here nor there. If I play – great,” Itoje said.

“When you’re not playing you do way more fitness. The guys who haven’t been in the squad have been getting flogged – so that’s motivation enough to play,” Itoje said.

“If I’m not playing I’ll be getting flogged. I’d much rather play because I don’t want to get flogged!”

Chessum, Itoje’s partner in England’s first choice engine room, is is also looking to keep his place, although the Leicester lock has a stronger case for inclusion as he is on the comeback trail from a serious ankle injury.

“You want to hold your hand up to play at every opportunity possible,” Chessum said.

“I have not played a lot of rugby at all in the last six months so I want to keep playing.

“It is not up to me, it is up to the coaches so I will hold my hand up in training this week and it is up to them, the selection process.”

Chile are expected to be overrun in Lille on Saturday but Portugal and Uruguay have already demonstrated against Wales and France in this World Cup that the minnows can cause a scare.

The tournament’s last great upset was when Japan toppled Ireland four years ago and Chessum does not want England to be the next big-name scalp.

“If you sleepwalk into games or sleepwalk into anything in this World Cup you will get caught out and exposed,” he said.

“You have seen from the games last week that there is not a big disparity between the teams – the tier-two nations have taken some of the best teams right to the wire.

“We will be firing on all cylinders in training and on the job to take the game to Chile.”

Rachel Daly feels the calendar in the women’s game needs to be looked at, describing the amount of games as “excessive”.

England boss Sarina Wiegman last week said the matter was something she was “very worried” about as she named her squad for matches against Scotland at home on Friday and the Netherlands away four days later in the inaugural Women’s Nations League.

The Lionesses’ World Cup campaign concluded with the final on August 20, and there have been Champions League qualifying fixtures since then.

Daly told a press conference: “I do think the calendar is something that does need to be addressed moving forward.

“You’ve seen a significant amount of injuries in the past year or so, which you can only think may be a part of the calendar and the excessive amount of games we have during the season, especially the girls playing in the Champions League as well.

“I do think it needs to be looked at and addressed in the future. But as of right now, we’re not in a position to minimise game time we’ve got, so we just have to tackle it head on right now and put ourselves in the best position physically and mentally to play.

“We’ve got to get straight back into it, with our clubs, internationally, and we’re all just ready to go again and focus on the upcoming Nations League.”

On the process of trying to get back to normality after what was the Lionesses’ first World Cup final, and saw Wiegman’s European champions beaten 1-0 by Spain, Daly said: “Probably the fact it wasn’t in our home country deterred a little bit of the emotion.

“I’ve bumped into people in the street who say how proud they are, it’s a nice feeling. Everyone knows we’re disappointed with how it turned out but we made the nation proud once again and that’s what we want to do.

“Everyone deals with it a little bit different. But here we are back at it again!”

England open their Group A1 matches in the new competition – via which they can secure Paris 2024 Olympics qualification for Great Britain – with a trip to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light to play a Scotland outfit whose dispute with their national association was resolved last week.

The team, captained by Daly’s Aston Villa team-mate Rachel Corsie, withdrew legal action against the Scottish Football Association over equal pay and treatment claims having secured what the centre-back described as “parity”.

Asked about that – as well as the saga involving the Spain team since their World Cup triumph – Daly said: “I think trust and open, honest conversations with federations is something that is massive in terms of growing the women’s game.

“For us as players and people we are always trying to strive for better and what’s right, not just for the players involved right now, but for the next generation and future for years to come.

“To have that platform is something I think probably gets overlooked, but it’s a place that you need to get to in order to petition for more, and what’s right and what we deserve.”

England’s players themselves are involved in an ongoing bonus payments dispute with the Football Association, and Daly said: “We parked that for the World Cup.

“I think people concerned of distractions – there were absolutely no distractions for us at the World Cup, and those conversations were parked.

“We have a great team in place to take those discussions further and I think we’re in a really positive place to achieve an outcome.

“We all want the same thing, the federation and the players want to come to the same agreement. The leadership group and the players that put themselves in front of those meetings are fantastic and do a great job, so I think we’re in a great place.”

Jos Buttler dreaded delivering another World Cup blow to Jason Roy but the England captain felt a sense of duty to be the one to tell his close friend of the news first-hand.

Roy was named in England’s provisional squad for the defence of their ODI crown in India, starting next month, but repeated back spasms put him on the shelf for four tune-up contests against New Zealand.

In his absence, Dawid Malan sewed up an opening spot alongside Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook’s ability to bat anywhere in the top six meant he squeezed into the final 15-man touring party, edging out Roy.

Buttler anticipates Roy will instead take up the option of being on standby, slotting into the group again if injury strikes a top-order player.

But that was no consolation to Buttler over the weekend when informing Roy he had not made the cut, having made an identical phone call 12 months ago when the opener’s poor form led to him being axed from the squad ahead of England’s triumphant T20 World Cup campaign in Australia.

“I don’t think any time is easy,” Buttler told the PA news agency. “It’s part of the job as captain that is not enjoyable, whether they’re great friends or not, it’s not a nice job to do.

“I certainly feel like it’s my responsibility to give that news. He’s a really great mate of mine so it was a really tough call to make.

“Jason will be the top-order reserve, absolutely. Harry, we do feel gives us versatility – he can cover one to six in the batting order which is obviously something that’s advantageous in a squad.

“But good players miss out, it’s the very brutal nature of sport. There’s plenty of people outside the 15 who will have felt that they were in with a really good chance of a spot.

“It’s a bad headache to have but a good problem as a selection committee when you have a deep pool of players to choose from.”

Joe Root is inked into England’s first-choice XI and while he made just 39 runs in four innings against the Black Caps, the Yorkshireman has been added to the squad to face Ireland of his own volition.

Featuring in three ODIs, the first on his home ground of Headingley on Wednesday, is an ideal chance to get back into form before England head for the subcontinent, having played in just 19 matches in the format since the 2019 World Cup final.

“It just shows his hunger to play,” Buttler said. “He’s someone who over the last four years because of the schedule probably hasn’t played as much 50-over cricket as he would like.

“He’s an experienced guy and he knows what he needs. He’s arguably the best player in our team and he just knows what he needs to get ready. It was very simple for all involved.”

Buttler was speaking to promote England’s official kit supplier Castore extending its ‘summer of sport’ campaign, which aims to highlight key occasions in the sporting calendar, including the World Cup.

Buttler had the decisive moment in the final four years ago, whipping off the bails from Roy’s throw before throwing his wicketkeeping gloves in the air in delirium at sealing England’s nail-biting win.

He auctioned off the shirt he was wearing on that July day against New Zealand at Lord’s – fetching more than £65,000 for charity – although he has kept a couple of mementos.

“I’ve still got the bat I used on that day and couple of wicketkeeping gloves that were actually returned to me having been flung around the ground after running around after the last ball,” he said.

“You look back at iconic shirts throughout the years – England in 2019 is a very iconic one.

“As sports fans those kinds of shirts are something you’re desperate to have. Hopefully this World Cup is a shirt everyone remembers for the right reasons and wants in their wardrobe.”

:: Jos Buttler was speaking to promote Castore, the official kit suppliers of the England cricket team, investing in an extension to its national brand marketing campaign. For more information, visit https://castore.com

England are casting an eye towards their white-ball future this week against Ireland, but first-time skipper Zak Crawley is thankful to have the vastly-experienced Joe Root by his side for the series opener at Headingley.

With England’s World Cup defence just around the corner – they depart for India next week and begin the tournament on October 5 – Root is the only member of the first-choice squad taking on the Irish.

He asked to be added to the squad for Wednesday’s first ODI at his home ground, targeting one more innings to find the form that eluded him in the recent matches against New Zealand.

And the outing should prove mutually beneficial, with Root bringing 162 caps and a decade of experience to a squad that is conspicuously callow. The remaining 12 players have just 38 one-day appearances between them at international level, with four uncapped newcomers and three more who have turned out exactly once.

Crawley himself is barely any further along, with his three ODIs coming two summers ago as a result of Covid withdrawals, and he is more than happy to have the old, familiar face of his first Test captain on hand.

“I love spending time with Rooty. To have him in the side as a batsman and former captain is going to be tremendously useful for me and the team,” he said.

“It’s great having him here. Especially so for me as captain, because I can lean on him for that kind of stuff. I played under him for a long time and stood next to him at slip when he was Test captain. It’s great to have him in the team and I will look to him. He’s a great cricket brain and experienced guy.

“No-one works harder than Joe, that’s why he’s the best. We all try to emulate him as much as we can. He’s a great person to learn from and a role model for us all. I hope he gets what he needs from it too.”

What Root really needs, after scoring 39 scratchy runs in four innings against the Black Caps, is a chance to feel bat on ball and relocate his timing before jetting off to India. Crawley, for one, expects nothing less.

“If anyone has forgotten how good he is, that’s their fault,” he said. “He’s just using it to find some rhythm – he’s a big rhythm player.”

Root is one of 11 in the World Cup squad who are over 30 and one of eight who won the trophy on home soil four years ago. It has been apparent for some time that a changing of the guard is likely to occur sooner rather than later, with Jason Roy’s last-minute removal in favour of Harry Brook a further reminder that the torch will soon be handed over.

For Crawley and those at his side, the next three games could well be the gateway to future opportunities.

“We’re trying to get this group to become the main team one day,” he said.

“We’re looking at the future and trying to emulate those guys above by doing the same things, playing the same positive way and trying to copy them as much as possible. I’ve just got to concentrate on getting runs this week. If I don’t get any runs then that makes it hard to do that.

“Hopefully I just perform well this week and what comes from there comes from there.”

Crawley admitted to feeling “shocked” when head coach Matthew Mott invited him to be captain, a rapid promotion for someone who was angling for nothing more ambitious than a place on the teamsheet.

But it reflects a growing feeling that he is one of the players who will lead English cricket forward in the years to come. When Root resigned from Test duty last year there was a lack of viable alternatives in the next generation, with successor Ben Stokes not only the best choice but the only one.

Ollie Pope has since been installed as his vice-captain in the red-ball format and Crawley has now joined his old childhood rival on the fast-track. He still remembers captaining his school Tonbridge against Pope’s Cranleigh side.

“It was a good game but they beat us. Popey got 100, obviously,” he recalled.

“So I’ve captained growing up and I’ve captained a few times for Kent, but that’s the extent of my experience. The good thing Baz McCullum has done, and Stokesy, is they’ve encouraged everyone to speak up.

“You feel very comfortable speaking up in the dressing room. More people have come out of the woodwork and led from the front, there’s leaders everywhere you look and that’s a good sign.

“I remember Shane Warne saying you should always think like a captain when you’re playing, I’ve done that since I was a kid.”

Lewis Ludlam has urged booing fans to keep the faith after admitting that England could have shown more enterprise in their 34-12 World Cup victory over Japan.

Head coach Steve Borthwick declared it was job done as England took a stranglehold on Pool D through a bonus-point win, but after the 14-man rout of Argentina it felt like a backwards step had been taken on a messy evening at the Stade de Nice.

Early in the third quarter supporters groaned when Alex Mitchell – a live-wire scrum-half whose instinct is to run – booted the ball dead and the jeering grew in volume when the kicking continued.

England then ignited, defying the humidity-soaked conditions that made handling treacherous, to stage a thrilling all-out assault on Japan that was directed by George Ford and replacement full-back Marcus Smith.

The gameplan was to grind down unorthodox opponents and then take them apart when they were out on their feet. In that sense it worked, but for lengthy periods it was also a hard watch that clearly alienated some fans.

When asked for his message to supporters, Ludlam said: “I just say stick with us.

“We are a team that is learning every week and there are probably opportunities in there when we could have run that ball.

“However, it was hard to see how greasy that ball was. It was humid in that stadium and a couple of times we tried to play and ended up straight back on our tryline.

“George Ford is very good at putting us in the right areas and putting us in behind so that we have better opportunities to attack farther up the pitch. It’s hard to get the fans excited about that and we understand, but we’re building.

“That was probably not the performance we wanted – it was not a complete performance – but we are happy to get the win and the five points.

“We will take more opportunities and we want to be a better team next weekend and play in the right areas of the pitch.”

For the second successive weekend Ford was named man of the match as he single-mindedly executed England’s gameplan, but his stellar form presents Borthwick with a conundrum.

Owen Farrell returns from suspension against Chile on Saturday and while Ford will surely be rested for the showdown with Pool D’s weakest opponents, Borthwick must decide who to start at fly-half in a tricky appointment with Samoa a week later.

As England’s captain and talisman Farrell demands selection, but his return would alter a winning team that has been well led by the indomitable Courtney Lawes.

Borthwick’s likely solution is to reunite Ford and Farrell in a playmaking axis against Samoa on October 7 with the Saracens ringmaster reacclimatising to Test rugby at 10 in Lille on Saturday.

“Owen’s always chomping at the bit to get involved whether he’s banned or not. He’s always there and always leading the team forward,” Ludlam said.

“It is massive that we have got him back. He’s a massive leader for us. It’s just brilliant adding to that competition at 10 which is so fierce at the moment.

“Owen’s a proper competitor. He’s one of the most competitive blokes I have had the pleasure of playing with or against.

“You know he’s going to fight to the end and lead the team in the right way. He’s a massive character around the place and we are happy he’s back from his ban now.”

Courtney Lawes insisted England are beginning to show their teeth in attack after they posted a bonus-point victory over Japan in their World Cup clash at the Stade de Nice.

England defied greasy conditions caused by the high humidity to emerge 34-12 winners, a messy and occasionally bewildering victory placing them in full control of Pool D.

A barrage of kicking in the first-half gave way to three tries being added when the match opened up, including Lawes’ comical try which he touched down after the ball had struck Joe Marler’s head.

“It was quite a lucky try but I’ll take them how they come. It was a good bit of luck for us and in these conditions, you take what you’re given,” Lawes said.

“I saw it ricochet off Joe’s head so I went to score the try just in case, but I was pretty sure that it had gone backwards and then come off his head. I had a good idea that it was going to be given.

“The conditions were tough. Even when you’ve got a good grasp of the ball you’d go into contact and you could feel it almost spinning out of your hands, sometimes even before you’ve made contact.

“It’s actually really challenging at the moment because it’s just so greasy. It’s hot and humid and you’re already really sweaty. It pretty much makes it like a wet weather game out there.

“We showed glimpses of how good our attack can be and we’ll continue to work on it.

“We’re getting better every day and that’s the main thing – that we’re taking steps forward.

“Come later on in the competition we’ll hope that we’re firing on all cylinders.”

England were booed by their own fans during the early stages of the second-half in response to the sheer volume of their kicking, which was eventually replaced by all out assault on the Japan line.

“The players did tremendously well,” said head coach Steve Borthwick, who revealed that Ben Earl suffered a dead leg.

“That was a really tough Test against a really well coached Japanese side who clearly came with a tactical plan and who play the game differently to anyone else in the world.”

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph admitted the Brave Blossoms paid the price for failing to show more ruthlessness in attack.

“We put them under a lot of pressure and we created opportunities but we didn’t take them because we made too many mistakes. That’s Test rugby,” Joseph said.

“England are an experienced Test side and over time they wore us down. That’s the nature of the game at the highest level.

“It’s disappointing for us because we put a lot of emotion into this week, but we’ll take the learnings from it.

“I was happy with the intensity but we just made too many mistakes when we were under the pump. The players are hurting but that’s footy.”

England have finalised their 15-man Cricket World Cup squad after dropping Jason Roy from the provisional list in favour of Harry Brook.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how the decision was reached and what it means.

How big of a surprise is Roy’s omission?

Roy has been a mainstay of the team for the past eight years and forged one of the most productive opening partnerships in history alongside Jonny Bairstow. Just a few months ago, travelling to India without him would have looked a fanciful notion, but things have changed quickly.

His form over the last four-year cycle has been patchy – well below what came before – and when back spasms saw him ruled out of the recent series against New Zealand, question over the opener’s place got louder and louder by the day.

So was it an issue of form or fitness?

Surely both. Had Roy been in peak condition he would have faced the Black Caps and been in control of his own destiny.

The back spasms, which came in two separate bursts, were a concern on the eve of the tournament that will test the durability of players over seven weeks. But England are not hiding behind that issue and the selectors were also mindful that Roy was no longer undroppable.

His influence has been on the slide for a while and he was also axed from the T20 squad just before last year’s World Cup. In summary, Brook was backed as a superior option.

Is this the end of his international career?

It would not be a surprise if Roy has played his last England match.

A wider changing of the guard is expected once the tournament is completed and with Roy already losing his place in the T20 team last year, he could have reached the end of the road.

Earlier this year he cancelled the remainder of his ECB central contract to take up a deal in the United States’ Major League Cricket and, at 33, life as a hired hand on the franchise circuit may appeal.

What about the reserve list?

England will have the chance to take three additional squad members as travelling cover, but it could be too much to expect Roy to fill that role in the circumstances.

Instead, they may look to the second string who start an ODI series against Ireland on Wednesday. That brings the likes of Ben Duckett, Phil Salt and Will Jacks into consideration, with the latter’s spin bowling an interesting factor.

Who made the decision?

Head coach Matthew Mott and captain Jos Buttler both have a key say in the team they lead, with the influential director of cricket Rob Key and national selector Luke Wright also involved. None were in post when a similar move was made in 2019 to bring Jofra Archer in at David Willey’s expense.

How did Brook make his case?

On the face of it, the Yorkshireman put in a modest audition during three innings in the recent New Zealand series, totalling just 37 runs. But he has had an exceptional start to his international career, including some eye-catching efforts in this summer’s Ashes.

His immediate reaction to being left out of the provisional squad – a blistering century in The Hundred, followed by rapid knocks of 43 not out and 67 in T20s against the Black Caps, was exactly the response required to inspire a U-turn.

Will he come straight into the team?

Dawid Malan is inked in to open with Bairstow after a prolific spell standing in for Roy. He goes about his business in a different way to Roy, a slower starter but a more consistent scorer, but has thoroughly earned his chance.

Brook will likely start the tournament as the spare batter but has the versatility to cover any of the top six. At some point during a seven-week competition, he should get his opportunity.

George Ford has been working with Jonny Wilkinson to turn the drop-goal into a weapon at the World Cup.

Ford landed three as England opened the tournament with a 27-10 rout of Argentina in Marseille last Saturday and is ready to continue using them if the opportunity arises.

To assist with the tactic, the Sale fly-half has been perfecting his technique with Wilkinson, who famously landed the drop-goal that enabled England to lift the World Cup in 2003.

“Jonny’s big thing is don’t worry about the posts,” said Ford, who continues in the number 10 jersey for Sunday’s showdown with Japan in Nice.

“Obviously you need to know where they are, but the only thing you can control is what you do in terms of how you place the ball and what you do with your body.

“Jonny said you can have the ugliest drop in the world but if you get your body right and the ball is in the slot, and you get the momentum of your body towards the target, you can do it.

“How many drop goals do you see that flap over? A lot of kickers say if you speak to kids growing up they are constantly looking at the posts as if they are going move to make the ball go over.

“The drop-goal has probably been underused. You watch Jonny’s era in 2003 and 2007 and the influence drop-goals had on the game then was enormous.

“Maybe the game has tipped the balance the other side of the spectrum where everyone thinks you need to score tries every two minutes, but you need a variety of ways of scoring.

“We had spoken quite a bit about them in pre-season and how big they can be, especially at World Cups. They can be really effective and hopefully we can show that again.”

In training, Ford competes with fellow playmakers Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith to see how many drop-goals they can kick – under the watchful eye of rugby league great Kevin Sinfield, who is now England’s defence coach.

“It is interesting speaking to Kev because in rugby league you might not see as many drop-goals because it is only worth one point,” Ford said.

“But he said as soon as play-off games came around, how much they practised went through the roof because they knew they would need a couple in a semi or a final, so we are doing this thing at the minute where we kick until we miss.

“Obviously if you don’t kick many before you miss you might go again, but there is a fair bit of competition and pressure between myself, Owen and Marcus when we are doing it.

“We are bringing lads over to come and put pressure on us, because we are not daft, you are not in armchair. You need to make it as realistic as possible.”

Maro Itoje insists England will do whatever it takes to win if a substance over style approach emerges as their blueprint for success at the World Cup.

George Ford kicked all 27 points in their rout of Argentina last Saturday as England responded to the third-minute dismissal of Tom Curry for a dangerous tackle by grinding the Pumas into submission.

It was a rousing riposte to a dismal warm-up campaign but having excelled in defence and shown the smarts to shape their gameplan according to events, a potent attack remains elusive.

Free running Japan are the next assignment at the Stade de Nice on Sunday and while Itoje would prefer to see England run riot, he will take a victory any way it comes.

When asked if it matters how the team win, Itoje said: “For me, it’s by any means necessary.

“Obviously, we like to score tries and we’d like to score loads of tries. But for me it’s by any means necessary as long as we get the win.

“Every game’s different and is going to present different challenges. The task is to find ways to get on the positive side of the result.

“We know Japan move the ball. We know they are a very clever team that comes up with clever plays. However, the goal and task is to enforce an English style of rugby on this game.

“We want to show our best hand and we want to defend it well. We want to impose our physicality.

“We want to get into our set piece game and when the opportunity is right our generals will fire us in attack. Yes Japan move the ball, but it is about us imposing our will on them.

“Japan run the ball more than Argentina and are very aggressive with how they play and the spirit and the energy of how they play.”

Japan are not the force that lit up the 2019 World Cup with the pandemic hitting them harder than any other international side as they were prevented from playing a Test for two years.

If, as expected, England dispatch a team who have fallen to 14th in the global rankings they will have clear sight of a place in the quarter-finals with group games against Chile and Samoa left to play.

But Jamie George accepts that if they are to progress further in the competition, they must develop more strings to their bow.

“If we’re going to win a World Cup, which is what we’re here to do, we know that we’re going to have to kick on from where we were,” George said.

“The great English teams that I watched growing up and that I have been a part of based their teams around great defence and great set piece.

“As long as we are doing that I think our attacking game flows off the back of that. We have got players who can do special things.

“You have just seen the start of us in this tournament. We hope you will see us score points in different ways.”

Lewis Ludlam’s understated influence has won the approval of Steve Borthwick after England’s unsung hero was picked ahead of Billy Vunipola at number eight for Sunday’s World Cup clash with Japan.

Vunipola has completed his two-match suspension for a dangerous tackle against Ireland last month but the hard-carrying Saracen is limited to a bench role for the Stade de Nice showdown.

Instead, Ludlam has been rewarded for his defensive masterclass as a replacement in the 27-10 win over Argentina on Saturday by filling the hole in the back row created by Tom Curry’s suspension, also for an illegal challenge.

Ben Earl switches from number eight to openside to accommodate the return of Ludlam, who played every minute of this year’s Six Nations and has been one of England’s most consistent performers of recent times.

The versatile Northampton skipper’s elevation above the less mobile Vunipola is a nod to Japan’s high tempo tactics, which assistant coach Kevin Sinfield has compared to Barcelona’s tiki-taka style of football.

Borthwick believes the quality of Ludlam’s performances deserve greater recognition.

“We’ve been really impressed by Lewis in training and I’ve been really impressed with his impact from the bench,” England’s head coach said.

“With the nature of this game and the challenge Japan pose, I thought Lewis was the right person to start. He carries, he runs hard and covers a lot of ground in defence, which I don’t think people often see.

“What he does often goes under the radar. He’s that type of player and we value that here. Lewis is a great energy giver. He is a great driver of this squad and very generous in helping other team-mates improve. You always need those type of players in your team.

“He has been a key leader of his club side for many seasons and I have seen that growth in him as a leader.”

Two further changes in personnel have been made in the front row where Kyle Sinckler and Joe Marler displace Dan Cole and Ellis Genge as starting props.

Sinckler has recovered from the pectoral injury that limited his game time during the warm-up Tests and prevented him from facing the Pumas in the Pool D opener in Marseille.

The 30-year-old tighthead will be making his first World Cup appearance since being knocked out in the final against South Africa four years ago.

“It’s great to see Kyle Sinckler back in the team. He probably could have played against Argentina but he’s now absolutely 100 per cent this week,” Borthwick said.

“I saw a great advancement in the consistency of his game in the Six Nations. What I see of him now is physically a guy who is in great shape.

“He’s exceptionally strong and he’s moving really well. I sense the hunger in him and a desire in him to want to do exceptionally well for England in this World Cup.”

Borthwick has retained the same backline that featured against Argentina with George Ford given another opportunity to argue his case for being viewed as first choice fly-half.

Owen Farrell completes his four-match ban – once again for a dangerous tackle – versus Japan and becomes available for the last two group matches against Chile and Samoa, forcing Borthwick to make a difficult call at 10.

England will march on to a place in the quarter-finals if they topple Japan, who are not the dynamic force that captured hearts and minds at the last World Cup when they reached the knockout phase for the first time.

Having risen to tier-one status, they have now slipped to 14th in the global rankings but at least opened the tournament with a thumping 42-12 victory over Chile.

Dawid Malan’s series-clinching century against New Zealand pushed him into pole position to open in England’s World Cup defence next month, as question marks continued to linger over Jason Roy.

Roy was once again missing due to back spasms, meaning he has been sidelined for all four games against the Black Caps, and Malan produced a gem of an innings to lay claim to his top-order spot.

He made a superb 127 from 114 balls at his old home ground of Lord’s, steering England to a score of 311 for nine that the tourists never came close to matching.

They succumbed for 211, going down by exactly 100 on the night and 3-1 overall, as Moeen Ali spun his way to figures of four for 50.

It is only a matter of days since Malan was being floated as a potential fall-guy should Harry Brook find himself parachuted into the squad for the tournament in India, but he has picked his moment expertly, following knocks of 54 and 96 with his fifth ODI ton.

Now, rather than finding himself squeezed out of the trip entirely, he seems likelier to slide into the first-choice XI.

Roy, England’s long-established opener, was left kicking his heels in the dressing room once more and may now be sweating over his place. He was one of the stars of England’s 2019 triumph but his fitness issues have emerged at the worst possible time as the final squad announcement nears.

Captain Jos Buttler, who admitted at the toss that Roy is frustrated by his struggles, suggested England could add the Surrey man to a second-string side that faces Ireland next week in a bid to get him up and running.

His absence opened the door for Malan and he played his part impeccably, scoring 14 boundaries and three sixes as he occupied the crease for 40 overs with a combination of touch and timing that eluded his team-mates. When he finally departed, reaching for a cut and nicking Rachin Ravindra, it was an ill-fitting end.

By then he had eased past 1,000 ODI runs in his 21st appearance – claiming a share of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott’s joint record. With an average of 61.52 and a strike-rate of 96.52, he has a formidable track record by any reckoning.

England rested Ben Stokes after the exertions of his record-breaking 182 on Wednesday evening but Brook was unable to make a go of his chance at number four, allowing Roy some respite.

Brook was dismissed for 10 when he hit a Ravindra drag down straight to mid-on and, with 37 from his three outings this series, has failed to amplify his case. Joe Root’s struggle for rhythm also continued, twice dropped in single figures before losing his stump for 29 aiming a slog sweep at Ravindra, who finished with four for 60.

Tim Southee paid a heavy price for his handling error in the 14th over, leaving the field for X-rays which revealed a fractured and dislocated right thumb. Like Roy, his World Cup place now hangs in the air.

Buttler was the best of the rest for England, chipping in a lively 36, before New Zealand took five for 68 in a busy final 10.

Just 48 hours earlier New Zealand had fallen short by a massive margin of 181 batting second and would have been eager to show greater resolve this time.

England, though, refused to let them into the game. Buttler took care of the dangerous Devon Conway in the fifth over, flinging off his right glove and running the opener out with an opportunistic effort behind the stumps, then held on to Will Young as David Willey found an outside.

Having failed to bring the required power to the powerplay, and with news of Southee’s fractured thumb emerging, an air of resignation appeared to take hold. Twice in a row a Buttler bowling change paid off in the first over, Brydon Carse firing one into Daryl Mitchell’s off stump with a nipping delivery approaching 90mph and Moeen darting an off-break down the slope and right through Tom Latham.

At 88 for four, and with two injured tailenders, it looked like game over. Ravindra completed a productive evening in north London by smashing 61 from number seven, but by then Moeen had already done enough.

He had Henry Nicholls lbw thanks to Buttler’s insistence on calling for DRS, then picked off Kyle Jamieson and Matt Henry with successive deliveries. Ben Lister defied a hamstring strain to block the hat-trick before Sam Curran ended Ravindra’s spree with a yorker.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has highlighted World Rugby’s inconsistent approach to disciplinary issues.

Tom Curry was sent off in the third minute of Saturday’s World Cup victory over Argentina for a dangerous tackle and received a two-match ban, yet similar incidents involving South Africa’s Jesse Kriel and Martin Sigren of Chile failed to produce a dismissal, citing or suspension.

It has raised concerns over the officiating of illegal challenges involving the head.

Borthwick also highlighted that when Owen Farrell was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Wales and then cleared by a disciplinary hearing, World Rugby intervened by appealing against the decision.

“There has been a large amount of commentary from different sources about what appears to be a lack of consistency and transparency in the decision making process,” Borthwick said.

“Now it’s not my role to comment on that, it’s World Rugby’s. I also note there was a tremendous amount of comment from World Rugby on Owen Farrell for a couple of weeks during our preparation for this tournament.

“It was a situation that went on and on with lots of comment from World Rugby. I note there hasn’t been very many comments from World Rugby – I’m told – in the last week or so. I will leave that to World Rugby.”

Gareth Anscombe has revealed how he feared his Rugby World Cup hopes might have been destroyed by injury for a second successive tournament.

The Wales fly-half missed Japan 2019 after suffering an horrific knee injury during a World Cup warm-up game against England that sidelined him for two years.

Anscombe fought back to put himself on the international stage once more – then injury struck again during Wales’ World Cup training camp in Turkey earlier this summer.

An attempted tackle on George North left Anscombe with a thumb problem that resulted in scans and him having to wear a plaster cast for a month, ruling him out of Wales’ three pre-World Cup Tests.

“I suppose I had a night there in Turkey where I thought I was done again, and that was devastating,” said Anscombe, who starts Saturday’s Pool C clash against Portugal at Stade de Nice.

“You have some dark thoughts then, but thankfully I had some luck on my side for once.

“It didn’t look great at the start, and the initial prognosis was it was probably going to need surgery, but thankfully the scans came back better than first thought.

“I had to be in a cast for a month, which was difficult, but at least I could still run.

“I missed the warm-up games, but to have the backing of the coaching staff was great. They spoke to me and said I was still in their plans, which was nice to hear.

“It has been about getting myself right and ready for when an opportunity presented itself, and here we are this weekend.”

Anscombe is one of eight survivors from Wales’ 2015 World Cup squad to be involved eight years later, and he offers considerable experience through 35 caps.

And the New Zealand-born number 10 is relishing a chance to play his part as Wales aim to reach the World Cup knockout phase for a fourth successive tournament.

He features in a team showing 13 changes from the side that toppled Fiji, and it is Anscombe’s first World Cup appearance since he started at full-back against quarter-final conquerors South Africa eight years ago.

“We know there are parts of our performance that we need to improve if we want to progress deep into this tournament,” he added. “But it was a great start (against Fiji).

“There has been an element of confidence brewing. The more time we spend together, we always improve.

“You look back to the Six Nations, a new coaching group and a fairly volatile situation in Welsh rugby.

“We’ve just been able to get away from a bit of the noise, which I think has been important for us as a group. Getting away in Switzerland and Turkey, focusing on ourselves.

“You always need an element of luck in World Cups, with injuries and decisions. We just hope to slowly go about our work and ride the wave.

“We had fantastic support on the weekend. I think more people will jump on the plane over and get behind us. I think you see when Welsh fans get behind us, who knows what can happen.”

An emotional Andy Murray broke down in tears at the end of an epic Davis Cup win over Swiss debutant Leandro Riedi after revealing he was missing his grandmother’s funeral to play in the tie.

Murray needed all his nous to grind out a 6-7 (7) 6-4 6-4 victory in three hours and 10 minutes at Manchester’s AO Arena, giving Great Britain a 1-0 lead over Switzerland.

At the end of what had been a light-hearted on-court interview, the Scot choked up, revealing the added significance of his victory.

“Today is a tough day for me, it’s my gran’s funeral today,” he said. “I’m sorry to my family that I’m not able to be there but gran, this one’s for you.”

Murray then returned to his bench where he sat sobbing into his towel.

It made his efforts in coming through another long and tense battle even more impressive.

Murray had only lost three of his previous 35 singles matches in the competition and never to a player ranked as low as world number 152 Riedi, but the big-hitting 21-year-old produced a performance well above that.

Having seen his gamble to play debutant Jack Draper and Dan Evans handsomely pay off in Wednesday’s victory over Australia, captain Leon Smith made use of his options by naming Murray and Cameron Norrie as his singles players here.

Evans’ 0-5 record against Wawrinka may have played a part in his thinking along perhaps with caution not to overplay Draper considering his physical fragility this year.

Murray played singles against Kazakhstan at the same stage last year but only once Britain were already eliminated, making this his first live singles rubber in the competition since 2019 and only his second in seven years.

Switzerland also sprung a surprise by picking Riedi ahead of their number two Dominic Stricker, and Murray admitted that had thrown him having prepared to face a left-hander.

After negotiating an 11-minute first game, the Scot broke serve immediately and had a chance to open up a 4-0 lead.

He could not take it, though, and Riedi worked his way into the contest, beginning to cause Murray increasing problems with his big forehand and aggressive tactics.

They earned him a break back when the Scot served for the set at 5-3, and Murray was then unable to take two set points in the tie-break, Riedi converting his first opportunity with his 22nd winner.

The young Swiss, who had never previously beaten a top-50 player, had his tail up and Murray kicked his bag in frustration after failing to break in the third game of the second set.

He finally made the breakthrough at 3-3 when Riedi double-faulted, only for the 21-year-old to leave his opponent rooted to the spot with a series of blistering returns.

Undeterred, Murray engineered another break and this time held onto it with trademark grim determination to level the match.

The 36-year-old has been in similar situations hundreds of times during his career and ultimately experience won out, although it was still nip and tuck, with Murray slamming his racket to the court after handing an early break back in the decider.

He broke again to lead 3-2, though, and quashed Riedi’s hopes of a comeback by taking his first match point with an ace.

Murray said: “It’s obviously incredible to get through that one, it easily could have gone the other way.

“It was ridiculous the shots he was pulling off, amazing, amazing returning. I kept fighting and tried to stay focused and managed to turn it round.”

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