FORMER England youth international Toni-Anne Wayne believes success at the Fifa Women's World Cup for the Lionesses can help boost the profile of the sport.

The tournament starts in France today, with England getting their challenge against Scotland in their Group D opener on Sunday afternoon.

Ex-Colchester Town Ladies youngster Wayne played against many of the current England squad, during her time with Spurs Ladies.

And the 36-year-old, who represented England U19s at the 2002 World Cup in Canada, says the event could potentially be a watershed moment for the sport.

Wayne said: “I think this World Cup will be really good and potentially, it could be the best yet.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and from an England point of view, if we can win the tournament it would really ramp it up and give it a lot more focus.

“I think it will be a really good showcase and the fact that it’s on TV will emphasise it even more.

“With the tournament being in France, it’s not like the games will be shown at crazy hours and the fact that it’s on the BBC will help bring it to a wider audience.

“I think England have got a very good chance of winning the tournament.

“Winning the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year will have given them plenty of confidence and they will definitely be one of the sides to watch.

“I would also put the USA up there, purely because they’ve been in the situation of being in the latter stages so many times that they can deal with the pressure.

“As an outsider, I wouldn’t write off a side like Australia.”

In addition to representing England Women at under-19 and under-21 level, Wayne also linked up with the senior national team at several training camps during her career.

The Braintree-based goalkeeper says Phil Neville’s side could benefit from the fact that this World Cup is being staged in nearby France.

“I certainly think it will help England to be closer to home in this tournament because a lot of the players’ families will be going over to France,” said Wayne, who is currently a free agent after leaving Ipswich Town Women, last month.

“It will still be monotonous at times, with the same routine of train, eat, sleep and hotel but I think that they will be able to manage that, being the professionals that they are.

“When I was at the Under-19 World Cup with England in 2002 at the age of 18, I was there for two and a half weeks and away from friends and family.

“You have to have the right mentality to deal with that and that’s when it’s important to have characters within the squad who can help you relax, have a laugh and switch off.

“I also think it will definitely help that Phil Neville has been involved in big competitions like this before as a player.

“I think that experience will be invaluable and he has a good relationship with all of the players.

“He’s a little bit inexperienced in terms of management but he’s got a very good team around him to help him along.

“England have a large team of coaches that have plenty of experience within the women’s game.

“It’s a big first game for England, on Sunday.

“There will always be that rivalry with Scotland and I think it will be one of England’s toughest games.

“Scotland are certainly not there to make the numbers up and they have some real danger players in their side.”

England head into the tournament on the back of some mixed friendly results but Wayne does not see that as a big problem.

She added: “The warm-up games can be a bit of a danger.

“In a competition like the World Cup, you prepare your team to start the tournament OK and get better as you go along, rather than start firing on all cylinders in the first games.

“You tend to find with most teams they start at a steady pace and get better and better as it progresses.

“It might be a good thing that their form has been a bit mixed in the warm-up games going into the tournament – you want to feel good but at the same time, you don’t want to be over-confident.”