James Anderson wants to prolong his Test career with England but David Gower believes the seamer "might just be lying to himself" on his future.

Anderson is the leading wicket-taker for seam bowlers in men's Test match history but struggled for large parts of the Ashes against Australia, who retained the urn with a 2-2 series draw.

The 41-year-old managed just five wickets across four Tests, one fewer than England's part-time off-spinner Joe Root, as Anderson struggled to trouble Australian batters.

Stuart Broad finished as England's leading wicket-taker after 22 dismissals and called time on his career, with Gower suggesting it may be time for Anderson to do the same.

"Jimmy wants to prolong his career literally as long as possible," former England captain Gower told Stats Perform. "He is so adamant that thoughts on retirement are not in his mind.

"I don't know Jimmy personally that well, but I suspect that's just because he loves being part of a team.

"Nowadays, you manage workloads, and that management has allowed Jimmy Anderson to still be playing international cricket at the age of 41. He loves it so much he doesn't want to give it away.

"The slight issue could be that people will look at his figures in this series. He's beaten the bat, yes, not as often as normal. He's had catches dropped off his bowling, which always infuriates and also makes the figures look worse, of course, but there's been just a little tiny downturn in the way he's bowled.

"At some stage, you have to say right we need to look ahead to the next generation. [Josh] Tongue, for instance, came in and looked pretty good. He's sharper than Anderson.

"Will Jimmy Anderson want to go to India where there's every likelihood that five pitches might be turning pitches? They're not going to be Jimmy Anderson pitches, I would suspect.

"If he wants to go to India, fair play to him. But selectors might at this stage be thinking now is the time that we have to have a quiet word in his ear.

"You maybe miss India, ostensibly, you could still keep the door open. He might be worried that they might tap him on the shoulder.

"He may say to the rest of the world: 'No, no, no, I'm absolutely fine, still got years left in me' – but he might just be lying to himself."

England captain Ben Stokes has repeatedly reiterated his desire to keep Anderson within the Test setup, with the former and coach Brendon McCullum placing their full backing in the seam bowler.

Regardless of whether Anderson – who has 690 wickets in red-ball internationals – continues, Gower believes the England veteran's legacy will remain intact.

"For Anderson, if this is the end for him, and it's still a very big if, you still look back on 20 years with extraordinary figures," Gower added.

"Even just look back to the winter, his figures in the winter, on very, very good batting pitches. In Pakistan, he played a full part in what was a great team effort winning a series, 3-0 in Pakistan, which in my time, that didn't happen.

"You had dead games on good pitches, maybe two-and-a-half innings in the entire game that was it, dull draws. England made those wins happen.

"They had to take wickets at key times and Jimmy was part of that. So you look back over 20 years and say it's an extraordinary, almost unbelievable record that sticks to his name."

Ben Stokes' development to become an "extraordinary leader" for England's Test side was not something David Gower could have foreseen previously.

Brendon McCullum and Stokes have formed a fearsome duo as England's captain and coach combination of their red-ball side, winning 13 of 18 Tests since joining together.

A stark upturn in fortunes for England's previously flailing side in the longest format of cricket has been led by Stokes and McCullum's insistence to play a free-flowing, attacking style against the red ball.

A 2-2 series draw in the most recent Ashes series further served to grow Stokes' stature as a captain, and former England skipper Gower acknowledged he could not have predicted this development before.

"I think Ben Stokes has proven himself to be an extraordinary leader of a cricket team and men," Gower told Stats Perform. 

"There is a lot about him that knowing him six or seven years ago, I just wouldn't have believed possible. But life has taught him all sorts of lessons.

"First of all, he has a great instinct for the game and a great instinct for pushing a game ahead to win. He loves winning and doesn't like losing, so will hurt for the ones they've lost, but hates drawing even more.

"That's an extraordinary attitude to have, because so many new captains, including his predecessor, Joe Root, would have taken a very different attitude to the possibility of a draw.

"He's created this culture along with McCullum, but he's got the instinct for the game."

Australia retained the Ashes after a 2-2 away series draw, having won the previous edition Down Under, after racing into a 2-0 lead in England with victories at Edgbaston and Lord's.

A first-innings declaration in the first Test at Edgbaston by Stokes, with Root on an unbeaten century and set to punish the toiling Australian bowlers, caused some questions.

Yet Gower refused to criticise Stokes for his decision to again try and push the red-ball outing towards a result.

He added: "The declaration at Edgbaston was derided by some and there's a fair case to argue there but was an interesting one, because [Stuart] Broad against [David] Warner was a tasty morsel at the start of an Ashes series.

"It could have laid down on marker but it didn't, but there you go, it's worth a go. But he has empathy for his players, he seems to understand his players.

"Good captains need to be on duty all the time. You've got decisions to make all the time. There will be mistakes, and there'll be ones you might revise with time to think about it, but you've got to go with your gut.

"Got to go with your instinct, and you've got to take people with you. And that is clearly evident with Stokes and McCullum, but Stokes as captain has taken that team with him all the way through."

While Stokes has largely been heralded for his influence as captain, Australian counterpart Pat Cummins came under scrutiny for a somewhat defensive plan to stem the flow of England's attacking output.

"You've got two very different teams, the makeup of the two teams is very, very different," Gower continued. "So Cummins' options were different.

"Cummins has one of the best attacks in the world at his disposal, and he is the leader of that attack. He also had a very good man, dare I say, in Steve Smith as his vice-captain.

"You need someone else besides you, who can advise and point things out and be in your ear to help you along.

"Both [captains] at various stages lead from the front. Stokes' 150 at Lord's was just awesome to watch. Cummins, at Birmingham with the bat, those crucial runs at the end. 

"He saw it through, lead from the front himself."

Gower also suggested the different options at the captain's disposal somewhat dictated their respective plans.

"The difference is England have six or seven batsmen who can force the pace," he said. "So they were always going to play that way, trust their instincts and accept the mistakes that come along with taking risks.

"Australia are always going to have to play at a different pace to England. That's why the 2-2 result at the end proves that there are various ways to skin a cat, and you can win games by being good at what you do. 

"Cummins and Stokes had different options. That's why in the end, I think it's so fascinating to see it all finish up with the series all square."

England head coach Jess Thirlby admitted it would take some time to get over defeat by Australia in the Netball World Cup final, but believes her squad can be proud of their performances throughout the tournament.

The Roses were making their maiden World Cup final appearance and knew they had to be at their best to win the trophy against a side they had edged out by just a point in their group-stage match.

But Australia dominated the turnover battle and, after the first-quarter honours were shared, steadily built an unassailable lead to run out comfortable 61-45 winners and secure a 12th World Cup crown.

“We are really grateful for that silver medal and over time I think that will sink in, with that bit of history we made (in reaching the final), but right now it is a measure of the belief we had in ourselves, the route we took to the final… (that we are disappointed),” Thirlby told BBC Sport.

“We are obviously going to be gutted with a losing margin like that in our first final, but such is the difference between a team that has been in 12 of them and a team that has just broken into their first one, it’s a tough lesson.

“Today was always going to be a tough ask, you just can’t throw ball like that against Australia in a final. If we do that, we need to find a way to win it back. Unfortunately both of those things eluded us for long periods during the match.

“We fought very hard in the first half to keep a foothold in it, but you could kind of feel we didn’t quite have the flow and the confidence.”

England – bronze medallists at the last three World Cups and six times overall – had built on their group win over the Diamonds to go on to beat New Zealand as they booked a first World Cup final appearance.

Despite the setback, Thirlby feels the squad can return stronger.

“For us now it’s OK to feel a little bit disappointed just because of the level of belief and the capability of this team,” she said.

“I am incredibly proud despite the final result, we absolutely deserved to be there.

“We had to battle to get there and it’s just proven to us that you’ve got to be able to go again in a big game against the number one, and we just fell short today.”

Australia mid-court Ashleigh Brazill brought the curtain down on her netball career with a World Cup winners’ medal.

The 33-year-old – set to retire after the tournament – felt the Diamonds set the record straight following their defeat to England in the group stage.

“To beat England like that, they beat us in the group and everyone loved what Helen (Housby) said, that they were fitter and more energetic than us, that just fired things up,” Brazill told BBC Sport.

“The fact we have done it the way we wanted to, playing some of the best netball we have played in a long time. I’m just so proud of the girls.

“It has taken all of us to get here, the entire 22, all of us, and the fact we are stood here world champions, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”

Lewis Ludlam admits it is “hard to not think about it” as the selection waiting game for England’s World Cup hopefuls nears its conclusion.

England head coach Steve Borthwick will name his 33-strong World Cup squad on Monday morning.

It follows an opening tournament warm-up performance against Wales that badly misfired, with some World Cup prospects undoubtedly falling by the wayside as Warren Gatland’s team triumphed 20-9 in Cardiff.

Northampton captain Ludlam’s performance was among the few highlights, delivering a trademark display that bristled with intent and purpose, while an ability to cover all three back-row positions makes him a priceless asset for Borthwick.

“I tried my hardest and that is all you can ask for,” said Ludlam, who made England’s final World Cup cut for Japan four years ago.

“It has been brilliant, the amount of competition we’ve had in the back-row over the past six weeks.

“We have learnt a lot from each other and there has been some healthy competition as well.

“It’s a tough decision to make. Like I say, the competition is so good and that has been a real positive this campaign.

“It has really pushed us all on and you can’t be too comfortable in this environment with so many good back-rowers coming through.

“It (World Cup selection) might be at the back of a lot of people’s minds, it is hard to not think about it.”

The squad will be unveiled with three World Cup warm-up Tests left as England host Wales next week, then travel to Ireland before entertaining Fiji.

Borthwick’s decision to go early at least guarantees an end to selection speculation that would have accompanied his players throughout the August schedule.

“I guess knowing early is good with the security and then you know what you are doing,” Ludlam added.

“But then again, on the other hand, pressure is a good thing and brings the best out of some people as well. So I expect it will be different for different people.

“Pulling on the jersey any time, whatever the occasion, is special. Not many people have the honour of playing for their country.

“The World Cup is just that extra bit special. It would be a dream for a lot of lads. Those who do go will be looking forward to it and relishing that challenge.”

Keira Walsh could make a stunning return for England’s last-16 World Cup clash against Nigeria.

Walsh was stretchered off late in the first half of the Lionesses’ 28 July victory over Denmark, with fears that the influential midfielder’s tournament could be over, but scans revealed her knee injury was not as serious as first suspected.

The 26-year-old took another step forward in her recovery when she joined her team-mates in training at the Central Coast Stadium on the eve of their last-16 showdown, before England flew to Brisbane ahead of the knockout encounter.

England boss Sarina Wiegman said: “She is doing well. She started her rehab straight after we knew what was going on.

“She has been on the pitch, she has been training today. Now we will wait until [we see] how she recovers from that training session and if she does well then she is available tomorrow.”

The Dutch boss, who led the Netherlands to the World Cup final four years ago in France, would not reveal specifically what injury Walsh had sustained, but did add: “I can only say that there wasn’t a ligament injury.

“Of course that moment in that game against Denmark, that was a very hard moment, but after the assessments and we knew what was going on we also said don’t take any assumptions.

“Just wait until a proper assessment has been done. That’s what we did and then we got the green light to just get her rehab started.

“Everybody is going on about injuries all the time, but the day after we noticed things were much better.”

The moment Walsh was stretchered off – grimacing, telling team staff “I’ve done my knee” and fending off help from team-mates – England fans began to fear that she was the most recent victim of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) crisis facing women’s football.

European champions Leah Williamson and Beth Mead were ruled out with that injury ahead of this tournament, while Fran Kirby also underwent surgery for a separate knee issue.

Wiegman stuck to the Lionesses’ standard 4-3-3 formation in the immediate aftermath of Walsh’s injury and brought in Manchester City’s Laura Coombs for the remainder of the 1-0 Denmark victory, but against China handed Manchester United captain Katie Zelem her first England start and switched to a 3-5-2, which paid off with a thumping 6-1 victory.

Wiegman added: “We have two options now. The way we played and what we did against China, we have taken that into consideration.”

Nigeria head coach Randy Waldrum is confident in his plan for however England line up, with or without Walsh.

He said: “Obviously, she’s a key player in the midfield for them. Kind of like we had to do for Australia and Sam Kerr, we had to prepare with and without, we have to do the same.

“England has so many weapons. All of those players are playing all over the world in high profile settings. There are more that can do damage to us than just her. They’ve given us a lot of challenges to prepare for and it will just be another one if she comes in.

“We have to prepare for both, as a coach I would expect her to go with a back three because they played ever so well like that.

“We also know they’re going to adapt to how they can best play against us so we have to prepare for both situations, that’s what makes the job challenging because we don’t have a lot of time. We’ve tried this week to prepare for both and we’ll see which way they come out.

“[Sarina Wiegman] has done a fantastic job with England, since she took over you can see the progression of the team.

“When I look at a coach and try to analyse, if I don’t know them personally, you look at the team and tell if they have an idea. In their organisation, they look like they have a plan [and] a way they want to play.”

England’s experimental side tumbled to a 20-9 defeat by Wales at the Principality Stadium in the opening match of their warm-up schedule for the World Cup.

The only Test to take place before head coach Steve Borthwick names his 33-man squad for the tournament on Monday, it was seen as the stage to influence the handful of remaining selection calls.

Few emerged with credit from the contest, but here the PA news agency looks at three players who gave Borthwick a timely nudge.

Lewis Ludlam

England’s most effective forward in Cardiff by a significant margin, carrying with intent and disruptive at the breakdown. Started at blindside flanker against Wales but covers all three back-row positions, including number eight where Alex Dombrandt once again proved unable to stamp his authority on a Test. Factor in his leadership and defensive steel and the Northampton captain could be a valuable asset at the World Cup, having travelled to Japan four years ago as a bolter.

Joe Marchant

Of all England’s players on display at the Principality Stadium, it was Marchant who seized the opportunity to show Borthwick why he should be included in the squad announced on Monday. The dynamic 27-year-old provided pace and sharp running lines to an attack that showed signs of life in the first half before crumbling amid a host of handling errors. Marchant’s 16 caps have largely been hit and miss, but he offers something different and covers wing as well as centre.

Joe Cokanasiga

Although hardly a stellar display, there was enough on show from Cokanasiga to suggest he could make an impact at the World Cup. The Bath wing of Fijian heritage hunted for the ball and punched holes in the home defence and while his rugby instincts may fail to match his athleticism, his power would be an X-factor asset to England’s backline. Vulnerable defensively at times and can be targeted with a clever kicking game, but his key tackle on Louis Rees-Zammit was an important moment.

England midfielder Keira Walsh is back in team training ahead of their Women’s World Cup last-16 tie with Nigeria.

The 26-year-old was stretchered off during England’s Group D win over Denmark, with what was initially feared could be a tournament-ending knee injury.

However, the Barcelona star’s injury is not as bad as first thought and her chances of featuring in the knockout phase received a boost on Sunday.

The Lionesses begin the knockout phase of their World Cup campaign against Nigeria on Monday and a tweet from England read: “All 23 players are out for training today at Central Coast Stadium.”

Walsh missed England’s last group game, a dominant 6-1 victory over China, and it remains to be seen whether she will be involved for the last-16 clash.

The 26-year-old did not hurt her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), with Sarina Wiegman saying ahead of the China game: “Keira is OK. We said that it’s not an ACL and we can’t give you more information.”

Knee injuries had already ruled captain Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead out of the World Cup.

Steve Borthwick said he would reflect ahead of his World Cup squad announcement following England’s lacklustre performance in their 20-9 defeat to Wales.

England withered after leading 9-8 at the interval in Cardiff, making over 20 handling errors in total and being outshone after the break as head coach Borthwick was given plenty to ponder less than 48 hours before naming his World Cup squad.

“I will give a period of reflection,” Borthwick said. “I will reflect where I am in terms of the squad selection and whether this game changes anything or clarifies anything regarding that.

“It is another piece of information in terms of the full picture, which is what I was always after on each and every one of the players to make the best informed decision.

“This game informs many different elements and it is another step as we build forward through these four games.

“I’m looking forward to announcing the squad on Monday and the Test match against Wales at Twickenham next Saturday.”

England will also travel to Ireland and host Fiji before heading to the World Cup in France next month.

Borthwick will be able to reintegrate players who were absent at the Principality Stadium but who are expected to start England’s World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9.

On England’s underwhelming display, Borthwick said: “We created a load of opportunities, but in Test rugby you have got to score when you are down there.

“Instead, we came away with three penalties. So, we created no scoreboard pressure.

“Our line-out and scrum went well in the first half, but at the mid-point in the second half, in both of those areas of the set piece we faltered.

“We also made a large number of handling errors and errors in contact against a team that jackal hard for the ball. We couldn’t sustain pressure because we turned the ball over.

“The turnover count I saw was 21 to nine and it’s very difficult to win Test matches with that. We created opportunities in the opposition 22 and we’ve got to take them.

“We’re still in quite a big training phase and we will sharpen up over the next three games together.”

England second row Dave Ribbans will be assessed after leaving the field with a HIA in the second half.

Second-half tries from Gareth Davies and George North rewarded Wales’ dominant second-half show, although injuries to Ryan Elias and Dafydd Jenkins threatened to take the gloss of their victory.

Hooker Elias left the field as early as the sixth minute while second row Jenkins suffered a knee injury in the second half.

Head coach Warren Gatland said: “They’ll be scanned on Monday. Ryan looks like a slight hamstring tear but it’s not too bad.

“I thought the two second-rows were great, so with Daf we are hoping it isn’t too serious a knee injury.”

Wales had won only two of their previous 10 games but Gatland, who took over before the 2023 Six Nations Championship, believes his squad have benefited from pre-World Cup camps in Switzerland and Turkey.

He said: “I think we’ve done a lot of work as a group in the last eight weeks. The line-out defence was excellent and we competed well.

“Despite the scrum penalties, I thought we dominated there. I need some clarity from the referee in terms of the decisions.

“We were winning the collisions and the hit. It’s a good start.

“The pleasing thing is there’s a group of players who will get an opportunity next week who are desperate to perform.”

While they remain on course to achieve their objective of breaking a 16-year Netball World Cup medal drought, Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls hopes of making it a gold or silver, were dashed, as they fell 54-57 to the Australian Diamonds in a semi-final contest that lived up to its billing from the very first centre pass.

With the number four-ranked Jamaicans having never contested a World Cup final before and number one-ranked Australia having never missed a final, both teams had all to play for inside a packed Cape Town International Conventional Centre in South Africa, especially after witnessing England’s historic rise in making their first ever final when they defeated now dethroned champions New Zealand 46-40 in the first semi-final.

Both the Sunshine Girls and the Diamonds were evenly poised for most of the way, much to the delight of the vociferous crowd that was seemingly rooting for a Jamaica triumph to spur another historic feat, but it was not to be at the end.

Captain Jhaniele Fowler, who would have wanted to celebrate her 100th cap in winning fashion, again led her team from the front with 45 goals from 46 attempts, while goal-attack Shanice Beckford shot nine goals from 10 attempts.

At the other end, Cara Koenen starred for Australia with 29 goals from 30 attempts, with her vice-captain Steph Wood contributing 28 goals from 31 attempts to put the 11-time champions on course for a 12th title.

Sunshine Girls vice-captain and outstanding defender Shamera Sterling expressed disappointment with the end result.

“We are gutted that we lost because we came here determined to go all the way to the final, but it was a good fight and I am very proud of my team and how we came out,” Sterling said in a post-game interview.

The Jamaicans were gradually slow into rhythm at the start, as they gave away an early turnover which allowed the Diamonds to race to a three-goal lead in the early exchanges. However, when the Sunshine Girls started flowing, the quickly erased the deficit and even forced a few turnovers of their own and also took a two-goal lead at one point. 

They could have widened that gap, but a few wayward passes allowed the Diamonds to rally and from there it was end-to-end action all the way to the whistle, as the quarter ended with both teams locked at 14-14.

After initially matching strides at the top of the second quarter, the Sunshine Girls let possession slip twice and that coupled with a rare miss from Fowler saw the Diamonds opening a three-goal lead. In fairness, the Jamaicans did take a few hits that should have been called but were instead ignored by the umpire.

The most blatant was when Beckford got bounced by Brazill while aerial, but nothing came of the play.

Still, the Jamaicans maintained their composure and consistent pressure in defence, particularly by the outstanding and gritty Shamera Sterling shifted momentum back in the Jamaicans favour, as they scored three unanswered goals to pull level and then go up by one.

But the deficit was short-lived as the Diamonds hit back in a heated goal-for-goal battle which saw both teams again evenly poised at 29-29 at the half-time break.

The momentum gained by the Jamaicans at the backend of the second quarter were dashed at the top of the third, as they struggled to complete passes and Australia duly capitalised and raced to a five-goal lead, the widest lead of the game at that point.

Australia could have and should have extended the lead even further while the Jamaicans laboured, but much like she did in the second stanza, Sterling came up with a big deflection that once again sparked a rally and soon they were back on level terms at 40-40, before the Diamonds stuck their noses in front at 40-42 at the whistle.

Jamaica, with what was their most efficient start to a quarter, easily erased the two-goal deficit and later opened up a three-goal lead of their own and seemed well on their way to join England as first-time finalists. But all their hard work was undone by a few poor decisions in mid-court and once Australia got their feet on the accelerator in the last five minutes, they never let up.

The win sent the Diamonds supporters into frenzy, while it was heartbreak for the Jamaicans and their loyal followers, who will now be hoping to make amends in the third-place contest against New Zealand on Sunday at 9:00am Jamaica time. The Australia England showpiece will follow at 11:00am.  

For all the talk about not only breaking a 16-year medal drought but also improving on the quality of their three bronze medals won in the Netball World Cup history, Jamaica's Sunshine Girls will face their moment of truth when they square off against Australia in what is expected to be a nail-biting semi-final contest in Cape Town, South Africa on Saturday.
 
The Connie Francis-coached Sunshine Girls will enter the encounter brimming with confidence, having won all six games contested at the tournament so far, the most recent one being a 59-48 triumph over reigning champions and number two-ranked New Zealand on Wednesday.
 
Though Australia suffered a last minute 55-56 defeat to England in their top of the table clash, Francis is well aware of the quality the 11-time World Cup champions possess and, as such, knows her team has to produce their best and most efficient performance of the tournament if they are to continue their gold medal hunt.
 
Game time is 8:00am Jamaica time, after Emgland and New Zealand contest the other semi-final. 
 
“We are expecting it to be another tough game, but we are intent on going into this match the same way we did all the others. The ladies know what is at stake, so I expect them to play hard and execute all the strategies while enjoying the game and work as a unit by supporting each other,” Francis said.
 
In their previous meetings at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the Jamaicans defeated Australia 57-55 in group stage play, but lost the all-important final 51-55 to the Australians and had to settle for silver.
 
While it is not a gold medal contest on this occasion, Australia stands in the way of Francis and her team possibly giving the country much more than just Independence Day to celebrate on August 6.
 
“Victory here and making it into the finals on Sunday, would mean a lot for these ladies who are hungry and determine to win a World Cup medal and it would also to give our country something special to celebrate for Independence.
 
“So, it is just about maintaining our focus and limiting our attacking turnovers as best as possible. So far in this tournament it has been remarkably low, but we hope we can get it even lower by looking for easier options where the passes are concerned. I am extremely happy with how they have performed up to this point, but this is our make-or-break moment so again we are expecting their best," Francis noted.
 
Recollecting the win over New Zealand, Francis pointed out that the day off was well deserved, even though it was one that the number four-ranked Sunshine Girls used to lock into game plans and strategies, which is testament to their determination to go all the way.
 
“They performed to expectations against New Zealand, and they are hoping to take lessons from that game into this one. Having a day's break helped us to work on different combinations that work successfully against the different style of play, and we are hoping that will come to the fore here,” Francis stated.
 
“I can't stress enough that we have to execute our game plans well and must be clinical in the shooting circle while maintaining our composure in mid court and defence for the entire game.
 We are just going out there against Australia to play our brand of netball with confidence, strong in mind and body,” she ended.

Marcus Smith is expected to be named in England’s World Cup squad after Steve Borthwick indicated he will take three fly-halves to the tournament.

While Smith starts Saturday’s opening Summer Nations Series match against Wales in Cardiff after being picked instead of Owen Farrell and George Ford, he was seen as the most likely of the three playmakers to miss out on selection for France 2023.

England took only two fly-halves to Japan four years ago but Borthwick, who names his 33-man World Cup on Monday, insists the technical nature of certain roles means the team cannot risk being exposed by circumstance.

“Right now I have got a pretty clear framework. In those key positions you need to have depth, three players who can play in that position,” Borthwick said.

“With the number of cards that are issued and HIAs, you need to have depth for those specialist positions.

“If someone does take a head knock you are looking at 12 days out potentially and could miss two Test matches.

“You need to be protected and have the right amount of depth in those specialist positions, which means positional flexibility is really important in your 33.”

Now destined to play in his first World Cup as part of England’s creative brains trust, Smith can approach Saturday’s first of four warm-up Tests unburdened by the need to convince Borthwick that he must be involved this autumn.

Farrell and Ford are more experienced and provide expert game management, but the 24-year-old Harlequins ringmaster offers the type of running threat that can turn a match on its head.

“I rate Marcus exceptionally highly. He has an incredible skill set and an ability to find space. He recognises when there are defenders that he can pick off,” Borthwick said.

“He can either pull them out of the line and put other people through space or find space himself.

“I’ve been hugely impressed with Marcus throughout this camp but also in all my interactions with him.

“He’s a young man who has already achieved a lot in the game, but he’s got even more exciting things to achieve in the future.”

Smith’s last start at fly-half came during a heavy defeat by France in the Six Nations, a tournament that saw him swap in and out of the role with Farrell. He was among a number of players to struggle that day – and he has not forgotten.

 

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“France was a long time ago now and I’ve played a lot of rugby since then,” Smith said.

“It was a tough afternoon and I have learnt a lot of lessons. It has definitely put me in a much better position as a person and on the field as well as a player.

“I would not say I want to rectify it, but I am a very competitive person…”

Danny Care joins Smith at half-back for the visit to the Welsh capital and with no players from Premiership finalists Saracens and Sale present in the starting XV, the side is littered with fringe World Cup contenders.

Ellis Genge captains the team but apart from Care it is an inexperienced line-up that sees fast-rising Northampton flanker Tom Pearson make his debut at openside, with Theo Dan and Tom Willis poised to win their first caps off the bench.

Borthwick and his coaching assistants will hold their final selection meeting on Saturday night before each player is told the following day whether they have made the cut.

“Out of the 33, the vast majority of those positions we are pretty firm on where we are. There is always a few that are written in pencil, as it were,” Borthwick said.

“The players are very clear about where they stand, where they are in the rankings of their position and what they need to do to earn their place in the 33.”

Borthwick’s squad were given a talk by England football coach Gareth Southgate during their World Cup training camp.

“Gareth’s got such a vast experience of tournaments as a player and in management. He shared that with the players,” Borthwick said.

“They enjoyed it, asked him plenty of questions and he was very generous in terms of his lessons and his experiences and things he’s picked up on in the journey.”

England batting great David Gower described Stuart Broad's Ashes send-off as "the stuff of legend" after he delivered two crucial wickets to level the series on the final outing of his career.

Broad announced the fifth Test against Australia would be his last match as a professional cricketer on Saturday, before ending his glittering career on a high two days later.

With England requiring two late wickets on day five to level the series at 2-2, Broad dismissed Todd Murphy and Alex Carey to deny Australia a first series win on English soil since 2001.

The 37-year-old ends his career with 604 Test wickets, a tally only bettered by long-time team-mate James Anderson (690) among England players.

Asked about Broad's remarkable final outing, former England skipper Gower told Stats Perform: "Stuart's finished as anyone would like to, on a high, on an absolute high. 

"The Ashes has probably been his specialist subject, but he's taken wickets all around the world. His record, of course, is absolutely outstanding, bettered only by Jimmy Anderson. 

"His last shot being a six over deep midwicket, then to finish with the two wickets that wrapped up the game at The Oval… that is the stuff of legend. 

"Most of us go out without that script, most of us have to slink off having had a pretty bad day! 

"To go [out] on a highlight… that is a privilege accorded to very, very few. Alastair Cook did it at The Oval, others have done it at The Oval. The gods are looking after you when you have that sort of finish.

"I think for so many players, whatever else happens elsewhere in the world, if you are good at The Ashes – because of the history that comes with it – that stays in your memory forever. 

"I was very lucky to have a pretty good record in The Ashes as a batsman, and that's something I'm very proud of. Stuart can be equally proud about the way he succeeded and the way he played.

"We will always miss great players. When England next take to the field in a test match in India or next summer back here against different opposition, [we'll] be looking at the England eleven and thinking, 'I wish we still had Stuart' because people really enjoyed the way he played the game."

Broad's total of 153 wickets in Ashes series is the best of any England bowler, with only Australia pair Shane Warne (195) and Glenn McGrath (157) boasting more dismissals. 

Meanwhile, fellow bowling great Anderson has refuted suggestions he could follow Broad into retirement, saying his team-mate's exit has made his own desire to play on "even more firm".

Reflecting on the duo's incredible Test records, Gower added: "What will stay indelibly in black ink is that record. 

"The records of the game will show him [Broad] with 600-odd wickets in a lot of Test matches, 600 wickets for a seam bowler of his ilk is a lot of wickets. 

"Jimmy Anderson is ahead in that game, and he is even more incredible for his longevity. Jimmy is saying, 'I don't want to give up, I'm only 41!'

"It's an extraordinary thing for him to be quite so fit and strong and capable at that age as a quick bowler. 

"Both of them will look back as their lives develop, and there will always be those figures in the book."

England cannot claim a "moral victory" over Australia in this year's "outstanding" Ashes series, which ranks among the best ever played in the view of former skipper David Gower.

Rain during the fourth Test at Old Trafford ruined England's hopes of teeing up a decider at The Oval, though Stuart Broad's heroics did at least allow them to level the series at 2-2 with victory in the fifth Test.

While England's wait to recapture the urn continues, supporters and players took solace in denying Australia a first series win on English soil since 2001.

Captain Ben Stokes said he was "proud" of England's performances after the fifth Test, describing the draw as a "fair reflection" of the series as a whole.

While Gower agrees with that assessment, he does not believe England will be alone in wondering what might have been.

"Let's not talk about moral victories, that's just a red herring," he told Stats Perform. "It's 2-2, that's how it'll stand in history forever. 

"I think it's a fair reflection. If you talk to people in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Perth and all the rest of Australia, they will say Australia could have won it. 

"It's a certainty that if you talk to people in the United Kingdom, they will look at all the things that could have been slightly different.

"They'll look at the weather in Manchester and say we had the moral victory."

Gower added: "I guess what's fair to say is that England were destroying one of the best bowling attacks in world cricket at Old Trafford.

"That assault at Manchester was awesome. If you want to talk about moral victories, maybe that's the one place you're allowed the leniency to say that."

Gower believes the series' many twists and turns should ensure it is remembered as one of the most entertaining of the modern era.

"This is right up there with the great series, or at least the ones in living memory – I can't go back to beyond the 1930s," he added.

"I was part of the 1981 series, which was [Ian] Botham's Ashes, Botham and [Bob] Willis's Ashes in many ways. That was a brilliant, brilliant series to be part of.

"Then 2005 was outstanding, we had some fantastic performances there. Great drama, great theatre, and this year was certainly up there for drama and theatre. You can argue about the overall quality, but there were some stunning performances. 

"You look at the human error… at the end of it all, you can imagine that the results – English fans would say – could have been very different. If only. 

"But the Aussies will say the same. Rain at Manchester, who'd have thought it? Weather in England… you have to factor these things in at some stage. 

"At the end of it, I would say that the quality of the cricket between the two teams was outstanding."

Gower feels much of the series' intrigue came from a clash of styles, with England's aggressive approach under Brendon McCullum contrasting sharply with Australia's more conservative way of playing.

"Before the series started, there was an element of it being a clash of cultures," he said. "The so-called 'Bazball' against the more traditional way that Australia play. 

"Sides have to play the way their players play best. England have a lot of gifted batsmen who have the capacity to force the pace, as per 'Bazball'. 

"Australia have batsman, for instance like Usman Khawaja, who will just stay at the crease and make runs in quantities and buy time, use time. He was outstanding as well throughout the series."

If ever Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls required a performance to add impetus to their charge of securing an historic Vitality Netball World Cup gold medal, it came in their historic 59-48 win over reigning champions New Zealand in their top Pool G clash at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in South Africa, on Thursday.

Captain Jhaniele Fowler shot a perfect 49 goals from 49 attempts and the defence produced one of its most consistent showings where applying pressure is concerned, as the number four-ranked Sunshine Girls topped their number two-ranked opponents for the first time ever on this stage.

Goal attack Shanice Beckford chipped in with nine goals from 10 attempts and Romelda Aiken-George the other goal from three attempts.

Maia Wilson led New Zealand with 31 goals from 33 attempts.

The Jamaicans, who extended their rich vein of form with this, their sixth-straight win at the tournament, will now have a day to rest and recover for their semi-final date with world number one-ranked Australia on Saturday. The Australians had earlier suffered a nail-biting final minute 55-56 loss to number three-ranked England, in their top Pool F clash.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s title defence seems in jeopardy, as they will have to wait on the result of South Africa's match against Uganda, to see if they are through to face England in the other semi-final.

Fowler lauded her teammates for their execution of the game plan, for the most parts.

“Kudos to my team, we went out there and did what we had to do, and it all came together in the end. We knew it was going to be tough, but we played hard and more importantly, maintained our focus and it showed in the fact that we remained consistent and disciplined which is what we were aiming for, so I am very pleased,” Fowler said in a post-game interview.

Having never beaten New Zealand on the World Cup stage previously, the Sunshine Girls drew inspiration from last year’s Commonwealth Games meeting when they drubbed the Silver Ferns 67-51 on their way to an historic silver medal.

Though they have proven strong side when they get their full squad together, the Jamaicans had their shakiest start of the tournament on this occasion, but eventually found their flow and got going. 

Of the two sides, Jamaica looked far more comfortable on attack in the first quarter, as they found the imposing presence of Fowler with consummate ease in the shooting circle.

The Silver Ferns, on the other hand, were made to battle for every pass and struggled to find any sense of flow in possession. That pressure resulted in them conceding multiple offensive fouls and, ultimately, a four-goal deficit on the scoreboard at 15-11.

This was the first opening quarter New Zealand lost in the tournament, but they again found the going tough in the second quarter.

Jamaica immediately shut down the Silver Ferns attack, as they delayed the passes to get the ball into the shooting circle. Once there, Ameliaranne Ekenasio's shot first up, was blocked and rebounded superbly by Shamera Sterling.

In fact, both teams defence proved too good to get past and forced multiple turnovers and missed shots in what was a messy period that New Zealand emerged strong from to quickly wipe out the four-goal gap.

From there, they evenly matched strides goal-for-goal, as both sides found their shooters with more ease.

But, as the second quarter seemed poised to end in a deadlock, especially after Jamaica lost Sterling to injury and a possible warning, the Sunshine Girls produced a late charge with two quick steals and passes to Fowler, who made no mistakes.

While New Zealand won the quarter 12-11, the Jamaicans maintained the ascendancy at half time, with a three-goal lead at 26-23.

Both sides were able to score more freely in the third quarter and Jamaica did well to open a five-goal lead at one point. But, unforced errors at the backend, allowed New Zealand to again close within two at 41-39, as they again outscored the Jamaicans 16-15 in that quarter.

However, any hopes the Silver Ferns harboured of finishing tops were dashed, as it appears the Jamaicans saved their best for the last quarter.

They applied consistent pressure in defence and mid-court, and that, coupled with quick passes into the shooting circle, allowed Fowler to score at will and open a 10-point gap, which was the Jamaicans biggest lead of the game.

At the end, they romped the quarter 18-9 and with it came the 11-goal win that solidifies their status as a gold-medal favourite. The last of their three bronze medals at this tournament, came in 2007.

England defender Lucy Bronze is helping the “shy” and “misinterpreted” Lauren James navigate the increasingly bright spotlight shining on the 21-year-old after her historic turn at the World Cup.

The Chelsea forward became the first England player to be involved in five or more goals in a match at either a men’s or women’s World Cup when she scored twice and added three assists in the Lionesses’ 6-1 win over China on Tuesday.

Bronze, one of just two England players to have featured in the last three World Cups, has found a kindred spirit in inquisitive debutant James who is a decade her junior.

She said: “When she came into her first camp she was already asking me a lot of questions about things that other players didn’t ask. I think we have formed a bond, we are in similar situations.

“I was thrust into the limelight in a different way but I can help give her advice. I can help keep her feet on the ground but she is good at that anyway. She’s someone like myself who gets misinterpreted a little bit by other players or the media because she hasn’t always got a smile on her face.

“She is quite shy like I used to be. She reminds me so much of myself when I was younger. She is shy but she believes in herself a lot. She’s a lovely girl and wants the team to do well more than anything.”

James perhaps is the epitome of a player who wants her football to do the talking. Gracious but succinct, her answers to the two questions allowed by organisers in the post-match press conference lasted all of a combined 57 words.

Writing in the Times, ex-Manchester United manager Casey Stoney, who signed James as a 16-year-old, also remembered her as someone who “never enjoyed the spotlight” with a “laid-back personality” that sometimes worked against her when others mistakenly believed that meant the Londoner did not “want it” enough.

Bronze knows just what it is like to make a headline-grabbing impact on football’s biggest stage.

In 2015, then 23 and playing in her first World Cup, Bronze broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 76th minute against Norway to fire the Lionesses into the quarter-finals and hand them a first-ever win in the knockout stage.

Third place in Canada that year remains England’s best-ever finish at the global showpiece, and Bronze knows it will take more than one person for the European Champions to upgrade their silverware in 2023.

She said: “I can’t expect LJ to score in every game and turn in performances like she did against China in every game. She is still young and she’s still getting to grips with playing at the highest level, but you have seen her at Chelsea and she has delivered some fantastic performances.

“We don’t just rely on LJ, we’ve got other players who can step up, but she is fantastic. I know how much quality she has. She has definitely announced herself on the world stage, but this is just the beginning.”

Group D winners England have returned to their Terrigal, New South Wales training base and will on Sunday fly to Brisbane ahead of their meeting with Nigeria in the last 16 the following day.

While the status of midfielder Keira Walsh remains unknown, she has stayed in Australia after sustaining a knee injury in England’s 1-0 victory over Denmark in the group stage.

England boss Sarina Wiegman got creative in Walsh’s absence, employing a 3-5-2 system that seemed to spark the Lionesses to life against China.

While words like ‘dominant’ and ‘consistent’ are often used as descriptors for world number four side England, Wiegman has with one inspired decision added unpredictability into the mix.

Bronze added: “Keira is irreplaceable, there isn’t anyone who can do what she does in the world.

“A lot of teams have studied England, they have wanted to beat England being the European champions. We have shuffled things about a little bit and it keeps other teams on their toes.

“They don’t know what to expect, it makes us unpredictable.

“If Keira does come back and play, who is to say how we will play?”

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