Fran Kirby (centre) has scored 12 goals in 37 appearances for England
Women’s World Cup
Host nation: France Dates: 7 June – 7 July 2019
Coverage: BBC website will have live text commentaries on all England and Scotland matches and you can listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, online and on the Red Button

England and Chelsea forward Fran Kirby says the Lionesses “need to win the World Cup” before talking about equal pay with male players.

In March, the United States women’s national team filed a lawsuit accusing the US Soccer Federation of gender discrimination.

“Ultimately we need to grow the women’s game,” said Kirby, 25.

“That’s the biggest issue, it always has been. Then you can talk about equal pay and everything else.”

Kirby, who has been named in Phil Neville’s squad for the World Cup in France between 7 June and 7 July, added: “We need to win the World Cup to have a leg to stand on in those situations.

“Ultimately, we are doing the same job as the men, but I understand that we’re not filling out stadiums.

“That makes it difficult to have that argument. As the women’s game improves and progresses, then they’re the conversations we can start to have.

“The USA are in dispute at the moment but they’re selling out arenas, they’ve won the World Cup and have some of the best players in the world in their team.

“They’re in a position to do that.

“But if we keep selling out stadiums like we are, improving the game on and off the pitch, those arguments can start to creep in. I still think we need to build at a rate that makes the game improve and improve.”

‘It’s nice to be able to play football pain-free’

Kirby says she is in “the best shape I have been all year” after a season hampered by injuries.

One of the key figures in Neville’s squad, Kirby was forced to pull out of last month’s friendlies against Canada and Spain because of injury.

She added: “I was struggling with a few injuries at the beginning of the year, half-way through the season and then towards the end.

“I was playing through pain.

“A lot of the time we do that, we put ourselves through a lot of strenuous work, you get niggles, and obviously some affect you others more.

“So it’s nice to be able to go on the pitch and play completely how I want to play and express myself in the best way.

“It’s nice to be able to play football pain-free.”

Kirby could play in Saturday’s friendly with Denmark at Walsall (13:00 BST).

After the Denmark game, the Lionesses face New Zealand in their final friendly on 1 June at Brighton (13:00 BST) before their opening World Cup Group D game against Scotland in Nice on 9 June.

“I’m probably in the best shape I have been all year. I’m in a good place now,” added Kirby.

She will be appearing at her second World Cup, having scored on her first start in the tournament at Canada 2015 before helping the team reach the last four where they were beaten by Japan.

She also tasted semi-final defeat against hosts and eventual winners Netherlands at Euro 2017 and says those two losses will act as motivation to go one step further.

“I think everyone is still hurting from the two semi-finals we lost,” she added.

“We want to make sure we get past that stage this time. Not to focus too much on the hurt we experienced and still feel, but to use that as a motivation.

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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