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Abraham, Sancho back in England contention after virus breach

Gareth Southgate will consider selecting Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho for England’s Nations League clash against Belgium after the pair returned to the fold following their breach of coronavirus protocols.

Chelsea striker and Borussia Dortmund forward Sancho were both left out of England’s 3-0 friendly win over Wales at Wembley on Thursday after attending a large party earlier in the week.

The surprise 23rd birthday bash for Abraham was thrown by his family and was also attended by his Chelsea and England team-mate Ben Chilwell.

With private gatherings of more than six people outlawed by the government during the pandemic, England boss Southgate was forced to leave out the trio against Wales.

In a bid to lay down the law to his squad, Southgate had already decided not to select Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden for the current matches after they invited Icelandic women back to the England team hotel last month in breach of virus rules.

But, while Chilwell will not feature when Belgium visit Wembley because of an illness unrelated to Covid-19, Southgate is willing to forgive Abraham and Sancho.

“Tammy and Jadon both trained this morning, so everybody is available,” Southgate told reporters on Saturday.

“They’ve obviously missed a bit of training so that’s a bit of a concern in terms of their load through the week. But it’s done. That situation is done, they are back with the group and we move forward.

“Ben will be tested today and we will have to wait for the results of that tomorrow and then we can make a decision from there medically on that.”

‘Round of applause’

While several members of his squad have been in trouble lately, Southgate is full of admiration for Marcus Rashford after the Manchester United forward was given an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Rashford, 22, was rewarded for his efforts in helping secure free meals for vulnerable British children during the pandemic.

“Firstly it’s an amazing achievement, wonderful for him and his family, the recognition,” Southgate said.

“But he didn’t start this project to get the recognition. He started it because it was something he had been affected by, that he cared passionately about, and for somebody of his age to be able to make the difference he has is a phenomenal achievement.

“We’re all very proud of him. We gave him a special round of applause this morning. You can only marvel at what he’s achieved and the difference he’s made.”

The experimental England team that started against Wales had just 54 caps in total, the fewest since 1976, and Southgate is expected to name a stronger side against Belgium, who sit top of FIFA’s world rankings.

It will be intriguing to see if Southgate retains many of his new boys after Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored on his debut against Wales, with Danny Ings and Conor Coady bagging their first goals for their country.

Jack Grealish also gave an eye-catching performance and the Aston Villa playmaker’s contribution drew comparisons in some quarters with former England icon Paul Gascoigne.

“I am very conscious that I don’t want to be dampening the enthusiasm for Jack,” Southgate said. 

“I always answer honestly about people. When you are talking about Gascoigne, there’s not a player in English history that was at that level, in my opinion.

“I don’t want that to seem as a criticism of Jack. I just feel that Gascoigne is so unique and was such an incredible player, it’s a bit like talking about Bobby Moore.

“What we have to say is young players that come through you shouldn’t burden them with tagging them and comparing them to somebody else. Their own talents are unique.”

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