Interim England head coach Hege Riise believes Friday’s friendly clash in France will give her side a much-needed chance to challenge themselves against top-class opposition.
The Lionesses have only played once in the last 12 months – a comfortable 6-0 friendly win at home to Northern Ireland in February – and the upcoming game will be their first match away from home since March 2020.
The Norwegian told the media on Thursday: “[Playing away from home] was the reason that we really wanted this game. Not risking anything [with Covid-19], of course, but we were keen to get the game on.
“The reason for that is this group needs games. It has been a long time since they played for their country and it’ll be good to see how they react and how we can build from the France game into a match with Canada next week as well.
“So [they are] two good games close to each other, a few days in between.”
As well as being in temporary charge of England until Sarina Wiegman takes over in September, Riise has been named as head coach of the Team GB Olympic team.
The final 18 for that tournament will be a mix of players from all four home nations, but with the majority of those being English, the quick turnaround between Friday’s clash in Caen and next Tuesday’s game at home to Canada will provide the players with a taste of what the quick turnaround is like.
“This is probably the closest we can get now to replicating the Olympics, in terms of how we do the recovery and how we do the details so we are fresh leading into the Canada game,” Riise said.
The squad will be bolstered by the late addition of Lyon forward Nikita Parris, who has missed recent camps owing to an inability to leave France due to Covid-19 restrictions.
There has recently been an outbreak at her domestic team in which 15 players and staff tested positive, but Parris has not been affected and will be a strong addition for the upcoming games.
“It was good for us to have her in, even though she came in late. She came with such an energy and she’s been a part of this team for a long time and a key player,” added Riise.
“It’s an opportunity to get her in the squad again and for us to see her closely in training and games coming up.”
Riise’s excitement is a feeling shared by forward Ellen White, who is looking forward to putting into practice the work that has been done in recent training camps.
“I’m excited to play France, who are a really strong team,” White added. “We’re following everything Covid-wise, we feel safe to travel. We’re excited for this match and then to come back and face Canada as well.
“The opposition we’re facing are pretty much tier one opposition. They’re both fantastic teams so hopefully we can keep building partnerships, relationships, building on the philosophy of Hege and what she wants from this England team.”
In the absence of Steph Houghton – who is currently sidelined with an injury – Riise has already picked a new captain, although she refrained from revealing who will lead the side in both games.
White, who could be a good contender for the captaincy, expressed just how highly she thinks of Houghton, and addressed the need to step up and help the younger members of the squad in her absence.
She said: “I really miss Steph, she’s a phenomenal leader, she’s so selfless and someone that I look up to.
“As I’ve got older and more experienced, I’ve wanted to be a bit more of a leader and wanted to help and encourage those individuals coming up.
“I look to Steph, she’s doing a great job and if I can do anything that’s half as good as she is then it will hopefully be okay.”