Soccer-Injuries devastating for England players, says coach Wiegman

FILE PHOTO: International Women's Friendly - England v Australia

(Reuters) - England's spate of injuries ahead of the women's World Cup have been devastating, coach Sarina Wiegman said on Tuesday hours after forward Fran Kirby confirmed she will undergo knee surgery and miss this year's tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

Kirby is the third England regular who will be sidelined for the World Cup after captain Leah Williamson, who suffered a cruciate ligament rupture last month, and Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead, ruled out since November with the same injury.

"It is devastating for the players and they are understandably gutted – it is really sad," Wiegman said.

"Leah has done a tremendous job as our captain and she was in good form when it happened. It is horrible for her and sad for the whole team that she will be unavailable. And it is the same with Fran."

Wiegman said the situation means other players will get the chance to go to the tournament that kicks off on July 20, where she will be looking to follow up on the success at last year's Euros where she led the Lionesses to their first major title.

"It is disappointing for the team. But on the other hand, it gives other players the opportunity to show their quality.

"We have to move on and not focus on who isn’t there but instead concentrate on who is available, as we try to reach the highest level that we can."

As preparations for the World Cup continue, the Dutch coach, who led her own country to success at Euro 2017, added that she was excited to face the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland in the inaugural Women's Nations League between September and December.

England kick off their World Cup campaign against Haiti on July 22. They also face Denmark and China in Group D.

(Reporting by Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City; Editing by Ken Ferris)