England Women's squad given royal launch

London (AFP) –


Prince William announced on Wednesday that Steph Houghton will lead England at the Women's World Cup as "celebrity fans" announced Phil Neville's team player-by-player on social media.

Manchester City captain Houghton was the first player of the squad of 23 to be announced, by the Football Association president.

"The countdown is on to a momentous summer of football as our Lionesses head to France to take on the world's best at the Women's World Cup," William said in a video posted on his official Twitter account.

"It gives me great pleasure to be able to announce that England's defensive rock and captain, Steph Houghton, will be on the plane to France. Steph, congratulations. I know you and the team will do the nation proud. Good luck."

Ex-England men's captain David Beckham, a former Manchester United teammate of Neville's, announced the inclusion of Nikita Parris, who will wear the number seven shirt, on Instagram.

"It's a shirt that I wore for many years with pride," he said. "It's a shirt that I captained my country in so I know that Nikita will do exactly the same, wear this shirt with pride.

"Also a message to Phil and all the Lionesses for the World Cup this summer -- good luck, we'll be watching."

The tournament starts in Paris on June 7, with England's campaign beginning against Scotland in Nice on 9 June.

"We are in a really difficult group with Scotland, Argentina and Japan," Neville told the BBC.

"We are the third-ranked team in the world and there is a lot of expectation but our performances have been really good and there is more to come from these players."