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'The best days of our lives' - why Lioness Leah Williamson won't get pre-match nerves

'The best days of our lives' - why Lioness Leah Williamson won't get pre-match nerves

08/06/2019 at 21:20Updated 08/06/2019 at 22:20

England's Leah Williamson is about to make her World Cup debut. She will be part of Phil Neville's squad to face Scotland in their first match in Group D on Sunday - but don't go thinking that she might get nervous.

"We've got so many characters in the team that when we're working we're still having fun," the Arsenal centre-half told reporters in Nice on Friday afternoon.

"I know it's a cliche but it's the truth. That energy around the team stays away from the stressful side of things. The experience we have in the team is good because then you know when to balance that out with seriousness.

"We're all here to enjoy ourselves, and that's Phil's main message - that's what he always leaves us with - these are the best days of our lives, and it would be a shame to waste them with stressing."

The 22-year-old has found time in her schedule so far this week to enjoy the sunshine and skim some stones on the pretty beach front, and she is delighted that her parents and her little brother will arrive in town on Saturday to share her World Cup experience.

"It's my first one and it'll never be my first one again and I'll never be in this position, maybe, again," she said. "I'm trying to just override that with excitement - trying to enjoy it really."

Phil Neville

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The lifelong Arsenal fan was part of the under-20 World Cup squad in Canada five years ago, where they failed to progress from the group stage, and she captained the under-17s in their European Championship campaign the year before that - so she has a fine knowledge of competing on an international stage at junior level. And of course, she was watching avidly as the Lionesses fought bravely in Canada in the last Women's World Cup, vowing to herself that she would work her hardest to be part of the team in France. Now she does not expect to break into the first-choice centre-back pairing of skipper Steph Houghton and Chelsea's Millie Bright - but she hopes to get her chance to prove herself.

"A year ago I didn't even expect to make this squad," she admitted.

"I feel like I need to be prepared as if I'm going to start because that's what the team needs from me. And it is business.

" At the same time, you have to be realistic about things; for the last year, I've thought about getting in the squad, and then you're ticking off boxes as you go along. Phil's made it very clear he wants every single person to be ready and that's what we've been focusing on - that's the mentality I have.

"Steph and Millie have been a successful partnership in previous tournaments but I know that whoever plays in this first game is going to smash it and then everything goes along from there. We'll see what happens. I feel like I'm ready to play and if I am called upon, if I am needed, I will be ready for that, I feel."