by Callum Ellis
WALES Women’s manager Jayne Ludlow says her side are relishing the opportunity of facing England in their final World Cup Qualifier later this month.
Wales currently sit top of Group One in their bid to reach next year’s tournament in France, but the Lionesses could pip them to first place if they come out on top on August 31.
Newport County’s Rodney Parade will host a sell-out crowd for the winner-takes-all clash, and Ludlow says her squad are looking forward to playing in front of a bumper crowd.
“With regards to our squad of players, it’s something they just can’t wait for because they are thoroughly looking forward to the opportunity to prove themselves,” said Ludlow.
“Rodney Parade was actually always going to be our home venue for our campaign but lots of things happened prior to us being able to play in that venue. We’ve been able to play in some great stadiums already in this campaign.
“It was a venue that we started playing in about two years ago and the girls thoroughly enjoy that environment.”
She added: “I think people are misunderstanding with regards to how the surface used to be and what it is right now. It’s going to create a cauldron of very loud and passionate Welsh supporters cheering us on.”
Ludlow has named a strong squad for the crucial qualifier, but Reading midfielder Charlie Estcourt misses out as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
The experienced Loren Dykes, Jess Fishlock and Helen Ward are all named alongside 17-year-old forward Peyton Vincze.
“We set out targets at the beginning of the campaign with regards to what was the bare minimum of expectations for us. That’s just to step on the pitch and compete every time – we have done that and ticked that box in every game so far.
“Charlie Estcourt has a long-term injury so she’s a big miss for us – hopefully we’ll get her back in the next few months, but apart from that everybody else is fit and healthy.”
Wales conclude their World Cup qualifying campaign against Phil Neville’s side, but Ludlow played down the encounter.
While the Lionesses have played a game less than Wales and travel to Kazakhstan on September 6 for their final qualifier.
“For us as a group, staff and players, it’s the next game – but happens to be our last. It’s been a really interesting, exciting and challenging journey over the past 12 months.
“We still want to develop areas that we believe we can still get better at – and if we do that in the next game, I’m sure the girls will be pleased walking off that pitch.”
(Featured image: Lewis Mitchell)