By Lori Ewing

BURTON UPON TRENT, England (Reuters) – Lauren James is fiercely proud of her brother Reece and calls him her best friend but the 21-year-old England forward would rather shape her own soccer career than play in his shadow.

James, who has 11 caps for England and is developing into a powerful force up front, said she was often compared to Reece who is two years her senior.

“I do feel like that a lot,” James said at England’s pre-World Cup media day. “Even just ‘that’s Lauren James, that’s Reece’s sister.’ But I want to carve out (my own name) and be known as ‘this is Lauren James’.

“At the moment, men’s football has a lot bigger profile and I’m sure there are times when I’ve said ‘Oh, that’s so and so’s sister,’ I think it’s just natural.”

Both siblings play for Chelsea and England, and their father Nigel is a UEFA licensed coach whom Lauren has credited as her inspiration.

James made her senior debut with England on Sept. 3 2022 and scored her first international goal on Feb. 16. Considered one of the young stars on Sarina Wiegman’s side, she promises to play a big role for the fourth-ranked Lionesses when the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand kicks off on July 20.

A major part of her development was moving to Manchester United from Arsenal when she was 16.

“It was weird at first, I was young… (but) without making that move, I think I probably wouldn’t be where I am now,” James said.

The toughest thing part about leaving home at such a young age?

“I can’t cook,” she laughed, adding that her go-to meal was salmon and rice. “I’d say days off, just being away from my friends that were all in London and family, it’s a long distance, and sometimes you’re too tired and it takes it out of you when you just want to hop on a train to go back.

“Living alone, it allowed me to grow up as a person. And having to cook for myself.”

James did not play for Wiegman’s victorious Euro 2022 side but drew plenty of inspiration from watching the thrilling final at Wembley Stadium.

“(It) obviously made me feel more like, ‘I want to make sure I’m there this summer’, and it gave me a bit more motivation and hunger,” James said. “I’d like to feel the same as what they felt last summer.”

She credited Wiegman with her development over such a short time since then.

“She’s been brilliant with me, she’s just allowed me to express myself, and not tried to change me,” James said.

The Lionesses left for Australia on Wednesday and touched down to a warm welcome. Their Instagram feed showed people waving Union Flags in a guard of honour as the smiling but travel-weary players entered their hotel.

James said she had got some great World Cup advice from Reece — “Just enjoy it, have fun, try and score goals.”

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; editing by Clare Fallon)

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