Lordanic: We’re running out of words for James’ brilliance (1:38)

Marissa Lordanic and Mark Ogden react to England’s emphatic win over China in their final group stage game. (1:38)

Tom Hamilton, Senior WriterAug 4, 2023, 05:07 AM ET


• Joined ESPN in 2011
• Covered two Olympics, a pair of Rugby World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours
• Previously rugby editor, and became senior writer in 2018

Keira Walsh stepped up her recovery from her knee injury on Friday as she did light training but she remains a major doubt for Tuesday’s World Cup knockout match against Nigeria.

England trained at the Central Coast Stadium on Friday, with 22 of the 23 players taking part in full training. Walsh was the only one to miss out as she continues her comeback after suffering a knee injury in England’s 1-0 win over Denmark.

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There were fears she had suffered a severe injury, but England confirmed she had not damaged her ACL and are remaining tight-lipped on whether she will play again at the World Cup.

Walsh was the only player not to feature in full training on Friday at England’s training base as she continues her individual training programme away from the rest of the squad. There is hope that given Walsh has stayed with the team rather than flying home that she will play again in the tournament, but Sarina Wiegman and England are not putting a timescale on Walsh’s recovery.

Without Walsh, England dismantled China 6-1 in their final pool stage match on Tuesday in Adelaide. To cope with Walsh’s absence, England adopted a new-look 3-5-2 formation for the match and Lucy Bronze said the Lionesses may continue using that set-up even if Walsh returns this World Cup.

“Keira is irreplaceable, there isn’t anyone who can do what she does in the world,” Bronze told a news conference. “It’s not just tearing up the formation, you could see in the first two games that we needed the spruce things up a bit. It was the same against Portugal. 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. We might keep this formation with her in it. We need to be unpredictable, we needed to refresh things, you need that in the knock out rounds. Seven games is like a mini season in many respects. We have shown we are capable of changing things which I don’t think many people outside of the group expected us to be able to do. It shows what a good manager Sarina is.”