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England: Leah Williamson returns to Lionesses squad for Euro 2025 qualifiers

Leah Williamson in April
Leah Williamson missed the 2023 Women's World Cup after suffering an ACL injury

Leah Williamson is in the England squad for Euro 2025 qualifiers against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland and could earn a first cap since last April.

The centre-back, 26, made her Arsenal comeback in January after nine months out with an anterior cruciate knee ligament (ACL) injury.

She was called up by England for friendlies against Austria and Italy in February but withdrew through injury.

Defender Millie Turner is also included after replacing Williamson in February.

Williamson, who captained England to Euro 2022 glory but has not featured for her country since a 2-0 defeat by Australia on 11 April 2023, has started the last three games for Arsenal, including Sunday's 3-1 victory over Aston Villa.

England boss Sarina Wiegman said: "Of course I'm very happy. The squad looks good.

"I'm looking forward to working with [Williamson] again. We all didn't expect [her to pull out in February] and she the least, so it was a hard one to take and a big disappointment for her and us too."

It was a minor hamstring problem that caused Williamson to withdraw from the last gathering.

"But you have to get back playing games," Wiegman said. "She recovered really well, it doesn't take too long which is good. Now she is getting into a rhythm. Of course she has not played many games yet, but she is getting there and she needs the minutes now."

England face Sweden at Wembley on Friday, 5 April and the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday, 9 April.

As well as Sweden and the Republic, England will face France in their League A qualifying group, with the top two automatically progressing and the other two sides entering the play-offs.

Qualifiers take place from April to July, with the tournament scheduled for July 2025 in Switzerland.

There is no place in the squad for injured Chelsea centre-back Millie Bright, who captained England at the Women's World Cup last year in Williamson's absence.

The 30-year-old has not featured for Chelsea in 2024 after a knee injury kept her out of the Lionesses' Uefa Nations League matches in November.

Wiegman said she was "a little disappointed, of course" to be without Bright again.

"We all hoped [Bright] would recover a little quicker, but she is taking her time to do the right thing to get back and not get setbacks again," added Wiegman.

"She needs a little more work in the gym to get everything strong and that takes time. Hopefully she will be back after the international break but she's doing responsible things."

Manchester United's Turner is included instead of team-mate Maya Le Tissier, while midfielder Grace Clinton, on loan from United at Tottenham, keeps her place having scored on her debut against Austria last month.

Among those to miss out are Manchester United's leading scorer Nikita Parris and Chelsea forward Aggie Beever-Jones, who was called up to the senior England squad for the friendly win over Italy having impressed with the under-23s.

Parris, who has 71 caps, has scored eight goals in 16 appearances for United this season and she told BBC Sport last week it would "always be an ambition of mine until I retire" to return to the England squad.

England squad

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea), Khiara Keating (Manchester City)

Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Millie Turner (Manchester United), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham, on loan from Manchester United), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jess Park (Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona)

Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Arsenal)

Wiegman 'surprised' by Arsenal trip to Australia

Arsenal this month confirmed their women's team will travel to Australia following the conclusion of the WSL season, a week before the international break, to face an A-League All Stars team in an exhibition match on Friday, 24 May.

It raised further concerns for player welfare after Wiegman said in February she was "worried" about busy schedules.

"I think with the calendar, we have talked about it a lot and the congested schedules. There's a lot of challenges for the players and for us," said Wiegman.

"We are working together for the summer and have had conversations with clubs. I was surprised about that trip but overall in general, the competitions have finished at the end of May, then there's one week in between before the international break.

"I think with the already complicated calendar it's not good for them to go to the other side of the world. It's very short term so there is not time to adapt. They play a game then [their England players] come back to play two games for us against France.

"I would say that's not only for English players but any European players that go into qualifiers. It is the thing that will be hard for them to take and perform at the highest level."

Wiegman said she had "very good conversations" with Arsenal about the summer and both parties are "on the same page".

"I am in contact with coaches all the time. We talk about players and that's the same with our medical and psychology staff," added Wiegman.

"We also had conversations as a wider group to discuss the calendars and the summer challenges we had. These conversations are ongoing.

"We started in January and we had good conversations. We understand each other and that it is a challenge. I think that's really good."