Southgate feels Eddie Jones has inspired his trust in players.

Southgate feels Eddie Jones has inspired his trust in players.

MILAN — Gareth Southgate, England's coach, is taking a cue from his rugby counterpart, Eddie Jones, by continuing to choose excellent players even if they are not frequently playing at the highest level.

(Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

Jones stated in his book "Leadership: Lessons from My Life in Rugby" about how he chose players from English champion Saracens, such as star flyhalf Owen Farrell, despite the team's relegation to the second division at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season due to salary-cap violations.

Southgate compares it to the scenario he's in two months before the World Cup, with players like Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, and Ben Chilwell keeping their spots in the England team despite minimal playing time in the English Premier League this season.

Last year, Maguire and Shaw were key members of England's journey to the European Championship final.

Southgate stated of Jones' book and the Saracens players, "Even on reflection, he believed they were his best players and, even if they were undercooked, they were still going to be better than players who weren't at the level." So I don't believe there are many players who aren't here right now that are at the level to come in and play.

"Clearly, this is not an ideal circumstance. You want your finest players to play on a regular basis so that they are both physically and psychologically fit. But he (Maguire) is a key player for us. I believe it is critical to support our greatest players."

Southgate said he was ready to lay his reputation on Maguire, who is poised to start against Italy in the Nations League on Friday after missing the past four Premier League games for Manchester United.

However, Southgate warned that the scenario may alter.

"There are a handful of guys you could argue we might have left out at this moment," Southgate said after landing in Milan late Thursday.

"But they also understand that, for some of them, they need to be playing more frequently since we're just a few weeks into preseason, so physiologically, if they've had a few 90-minute sessions, that's OK." After another seven to eight weeks, things will grow more complex."

Southgate stated that Maguire, along with fellow center defender John Stones, deserved to continue playing for England.

"Him and John are great with the ball — the amount of pressure they've absorbed for the team in tournaments we've played because we don't always have the midfield pivot guy who can advance the game," Southgate said.

"It means there is a lot more responsibility on our center backs to use the ball properly, and those two are as excellent as anyone in the world at doing that."

Harry Kane is also poised to play against Italy in one of England's final two games before the World Cup, and the striker claims to be in the greatest physical form of his career after hiring a personal physiotherapist in the aftermath of recurrent injury troubles.

Kane was sidelined with a hamstring injury in January 2020, and due to the calendar gap created by the coronavirus pandemic, he did not return to action for over six months.

After that injury, he was suggested by a colleague athlete to a physio — Kane didn't reveal his name, only that he was Spanish — and has only been sidelined by minor niggles since.

"He's been fantastic for me," Kane remarked. "We've worked for hours and hours over the last three years, developed a really solid connection, and I genuinely feel like he's helped me."

"I've seen changes in my physique in terms of how my ankles were before and how they are now." I'm in a whole other state. So that's incredibly pleasant, and I've kept it under wraps."

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