Jordan Pickford will head into Tuesday’s crunch Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy looking forward rather than back.

The Everton goalkeeper was between the posts when Italy beat England on penalties to win Euro 2020 at Wembley.

Pickford was rested for Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Australia, but is expected to return for the visit of the Azzurri – where victory would secure Gareth Southgate’s side a place at next summer’s finals in Germany.

Since suffering Euro 2020 heartbreak, England have met Italy twice in the Nations League and also won 2-1 in Naples in the reverse qualifying fixture.

Now it is that prospect of another shot of international success – and not seeking payback for the heartache of two years ago – that Pickford insists is driving the team heading into the game.

“We know where we are in the world rankings and we know where we want to be. To do that, these are the teams you have to beat,” he said.

“I don’t think this game has anything to do with revenge. We went to Italy and made a bit of history, having gone so many years without beating them away from home.

“This is another tough game. They’ve got a new manager, played well in the last break, and we know they are a top side.

“This is all about qualifying for Germany. It’s another hurdle we have got to get past and we’ll be going for the victory.”

Pickford revealed there has never been much of a debrief on the shoot-out loss in 2021 and was more upset with the performance in last winter’s World Cup – praising England for brushing themselves off so quickly to work towards Euro 2024 qualification.

“We never really touched base on that Euro final,” he added.

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“There was more disappointment in Qatar, getting beat in the quarters, and then coming back straight into two competitive games.

“That just shows you the characters we are and the type of squad and togetherness we have to beat Ukraine and then beat Italy in their own backyard in Naples in a hostile environment.

“That shows you what kind of squad we are and I think the fans love it.

“Every time we put the shirt on we wear it with massive amounts of pride.

“To beat Italy in Naples was a great feeling, but they’re coming into our backyard now and they will want revenge.

“We just want to put on a performance, be at our best, and get a result to qualify.

“They are reigning European champions and are a top side. We only focus on ourselves.

“We look at what’s in front of us and we will always back ourselves to beat any team because we are fully prepared and have a lot of experience and ability.”

Andy Robinson succeeded Sir Clive Woodward as permanent England rugby union head coach on this day 19 years ago.

A month after the shock resignation of World Cup-winning coach Woodward, Robinson stepped up from his role as caretaker on October 15, 2004.

The former Bath coach was handed a four-year contract barely 24 hours after being interviewed for the job.

Robinson had been assistant to Woodward at the 2003 World Cup and he immediately set his sights on making England the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy.

“My challenge now is the next era and to ensure the World Cup remains at Twickenham in 2007,” Robinson said as he took the reins.

“It is a huge task ahead for all of us, and one I am excited about leading. I expect every rugby coach in England aspires to coaching their country one day, and I feel honoured to have this opportunity.

“Clive set a standard for all of us to follow. Clive’s successful record at the helm, culminating in us winning the World Cup, was unique and very special. It was my privilege, as his assistant coach, to be part of that.”

As a player, Taunton-born Robinson won eight England caps, toured Australia with the 1989 Lions and captained Bath to a domestic league and cup double in 1992.

After retiring in 1997, he moved into coaching with the club he had represented for more than a decade, and quickly delivered Heineken Cup glory with an upset of defending European champions Brive in Bordeaux in 1998.

He joined Woodward’s staff in June 2000 and was part of both the World Cup triumph in 2003 and the Six Nations Grand Slam.

But his own time in charge of the national team was not a happy one. He lost 13 of his 22 games in the job and stood down in November 2006.

Ben Earl insists England have noted their absence from composite Rugby World Cup teams as they look to prove their critics wrong in Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji.

England completed their group campaign with a full set of four victories yet few are expecting them to challenge for South Africa’s global crown despite being placed in the easier side of the draw.

Earl has been Steve Borthwick’s star performer in France and would be pushing hard for inclusion in teams comprising the World Cup’s best players, but the general snub has not been overlooked by the squad.

“You see a lot of stuff on social media about world XVs and stuff and there’s probably not a huge amount of representation from England in that regard,” the Saracens back row said.

“A lot of people don’t think there’s that many of us in there. You always want to be in those conversations. In terms of voicing concerns about it? Not really. We know a lot of our team have been in those positions before.

“It’s just an opinion, but at the same time we know the quality we’ve got. We know that on any given day, when some of the players we have got on our team turn up we become a very, very hard team to beat.

“These are the stages that we want to be involved in. You find out a lot about your team-mates, find out a lot about yourself. We’ll be expecting big performances.

“We’ve been speaking a lot all week about it being time for our big game players to start turning up. We’ve all got a responsibility to do that.

“It’s kind of now or never. No one wants to be flying back to London on Monday morning, so we’re going to out there and perform our best and see what happens.”

Danny Care is among a number of senior players who could be making their final appearances for England and the veteran scrum-half admits there is no margin for error against Fiji, who stormed Twickenham 30-22 in August.

“It’s what you dream about, being involved in games like this. It’s the chance of a lifetime,” Care said.

“We’re fully focused on Fiji and we have to be because we know how dangerous Fiji are. If we’re slightly off it, then we will be going home. That’s the stark reality of it.

“We know the significance of this game and how much it means to us, how much it means to the people back home. We’re dying to get out there.

“For someone like me, you know this could be the last time I put on an England shirt so I’m going to give it my all.

“Any time I play for England, it means everything. But when you know you’re kind of coming to the end of your journey in that shirt you want to do yourself proud and your family proud.

“I want to make it worthwhile that I’ve been away for five months and you don’t do that by coming home after the quarter-final. We’re really excited to get out there and show what we can do.”

Joe Root has no intention of walking away from ODI cricket at the end of the Cricket World Cup, insisting he would happily sign up for another four-year cycle.

England’s squad is loaded with 11 thirty-somethings and it would be no surprise to see several call time once the title defence is over next month – win or lose.

Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes are among those who could call it a day, the latter for a second time.

Root has none of the major fitness issues that have plagued Stokes and, at 32, time is on his side. Having found himself surplus to requirements in T20 cricket for the last four years, he sees no reason to pigeonhole himself as a Test specialist.

Questions persist over what role the 50-over game will play in an increasingly congested global schedule in the near future but with the 2027 edition already awarded to South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, the showpiece event does not appear to going anywhere soon.

And Root, for one, plans to be there.

“Yeah, I’d like to go on a safari!” he said.

“I’d love to still be playing in four years’ time. The cricket landscape’s forever changing isn’t it, but I can’t see myself not being there unless I’m not good enough and guys have gone past me.

“Retire? No. I’ll get pushed before that.”

Root has already assured himself his latest page in England’s history books since arriving in India, overtaking Graham Gooch as the country’s record run-scorer at World Cups. Having passed his mark of 897 in the win over Bangladesh, Root should become the first Englishman to reach four figures before the end of the tournament.

But for now, that is a peripheral concern to the team’s wider ambitions.

“It’s got to mean something over a long period of time to hold any weight,” he said.

“It would be nice if we win a World Cup at the end of it, because we’d have two World Cups and I’d be the leading run-scorer. But, from a personal point of view, they’re all niceties. It’s got to stand for something and the only way it does is if we go on this thing, which we know we can.”

Gareth Southgate says facing “revitalised” Italy will be a great test of where England are at as they attempt to seal European Championship qualification with two matches to spare.

The Euro 2020 runners-up can wrap up their place at next summer’s finals in Germany in Tuesday evening’s mouthwatering Group C clash against the Azzurri at a sold-out Wembley.

It will be the nations’ fourth meeting since Italy beat England on spot-kicks in the Euros final just over two years ago but their first reunion under the arch, with their previous meetings coming in Wolverhampton, Milan and Naples.

The Azzurri return to Wembley a far different side from when they became continental champions there, with Luciano Spalletti in charge of a new-look team that host Malta on Saturday evening before heading to London.

“Italy look revitalised under Spalletti,” Southgate said. “They were excellent against Ukraine last month. They’re a top-10 nation.

“We’ve talked about these top-10 games and the importance of them, the challenge of them.

“We have the chance to qualify for the European Championships with two games to spare.

“But also it’s a great test of where we are as a team and, yeah, it’s a challenge we’re really looking forward to.”

The Euro 2024 qualifier completes England’s October doubleheader at Wembley after securing an unconvincing 1-0 friendly win against unfancied Australia on Friday.

Returning Ollie Watkins secured Southgate’s much-changed side victory against the surprisingly dangerous Socceroos on a night when stand-in skipper Jordan Henderson was booed off the field.

The England boss defended the Al-Ettifaq midfielder and felt his experience was key having taken a risk by making 10 alterations in an experimental line-up against the Aussies.

“I don’t think it was a win because of how we played,” Southgate said. “We had enough quality on the pitch to be able to create a couple of important moments.

“But we know that all the changes, the inexperience of the team, made it was really tough for the players that played. I set them a really difficult challenge.

“It was great that they got the win. It was important to keep winning because if we if we lose the game or you give a goal away at the end then you leave here on a bit of a low. It sets the game up now with Italy.

“In the end, it’s very hard to prepare the squad when they know ultimately this week really is about the Italy game and it’s impossible to dress that up any other way.

“But for the players that played, for some of them their Wembley debut, for some of them their England debut. Massively important nights for them.”

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah made his England debut as a second-half substitute against Australia, while versatile Chelsea defender Levi Colwill made his bow from the start.

“Important first steps for them,” Southgate said of the debutants.

“I mean, Levi is a young defender. We know he’s not a left-back first choice, but he’s filling that slot for his club.

“What we tried to do is start with a team where everybody was pretty much in the roles they’re playing with their clubs, so that it was as smooth as it could be.

“But in the knowledge that we didn’t have a lot of caps on the field, we didn’t have a lot of leadership.

“Normally, we’d be putting one or two of those lads in with a lot more experience and a lot more continuity, so it was extremely hard for that group of players.”

Southgate came away from a challenging friendly pleased with a number of individual displays, highlighting Trent Alexander-Arnold’s problem-solving as he learns more about being a midfielder.

Matchwinner Watkins’ movement and positioning was praised after scoring on his first England appearance since March 2022, while Lewis Dunk’s development continues to impress his boss.

The Brighton defender won his third cap in central defence alongside Fikayo Tomori, who was replaced by John Stones in the 62nd minute as he continues his recovery from a hip issue.

“Thirty minutes for John Stones was very important for us, to get him onto the pitch,” Southgate said of the Manchester City defender, who made his first Premier League appearance last weekend.

“We’re managing that recovery carefully, we’re combining really well with his club on all of that.

“But he’s a world-class player, and it was great to get him up and running.”

Ollie Watkins has praised Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery for helping him get back in the England squad.

The striker returned to the international scene for the first time since March 2022 and hit the only goal of the game as England beat Australia 1-0 in a Wembley friendly on Friday night.

Watkins, 27, has scored four goals and provided four assists in the first eight Premier League games of the new season – including a memorable hat-trick against Brighton.

He had scored just twice last campaign before Emery was appointed as Steven Gerrard’s successor in November but then hit 14 in 26 matches following the Spaniard’s arrival at Villa Park.

Asked how it felt to return to the England set-up following time out of the squad, Watkins said: “I think my mindset has changed since the boss has come in, Unai Emery at Villa.

“He’s filled me with a lot of confidence. I’ve definitely improved in these last 18 months since I was last in the England camp.

“I think it shows in my form and my performance here so I’m really happy and I’m delighted to be back in the squad and putting on an England shirt.

“I envisioned it all (playing and scoring against Australia). I was itching to get on the pitch so I’m delighted I got my goal and it helped the team to win.”

Realistically, Watkins is one of a number of forward options who will be vying to be the back-up to England captain and all-time record goalscorer Harry Kane at Euro 2024.

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Callum Wilson, Ivan Toney, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and newly-capped Eddie Nketiah are other strikers in Gareth Southgate’s pool but Watkins believes he is not a like-for-like replacement for Kane when he is given the nod.

“I think I’ve got a completely different playing style to Harry, he can drop deep and play some unbelievable long passes – that’s not my game. I can’t do that,” he added.

“My strengths are running in behind and stretching them so I can only do what I can do. When I put on the shirt I’ll try and do the best I can for my country and then it is the manager’s decision.”

England and Fiji clash for the eighth time when they meet in the World Cup quarter-finals in Marseille on Sunday with Steve Borthwick’s men strong favourites to reach the last-four stage of the tournament.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the Stade Velodrome showdown.

Moment of truth

Who are the real England? Outside title contenders who have rebuilt during an impressive group stage? Or fading heavyweights ready to be exposed by the first high-quality opposition they face? These questions have pursued them throughout the World Cup and only against a dangerous Fiji side will the answer come. It is England’s defining moment – win and they advance into the semi-finals with their reputations intact, lose and a four-year cycle of disappointment and upheaval meets a gloomy conclusion.

Last dance

Aside from the prize of a semi-final against France or South Africa, England are motivated by the understanding that for up to a third of the squad this World Cup is their last chance to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy. Jonny May and Courtney Lawes have stated as much, while other long-standing servants to the English game such as Danny Care, Ben Youngs, Dan Cole and Manu Tuilagi are approaching the end of their international odysseys. Borthwick will begin rebuilding at the next Six Nations, but the head coach will be hoping his veterans have one big knockout phase left in them.

Pantomime villains

If England reach the semi-finals they will have done so at the expense of the darlings of the World Cup, ending the fairy tale scenario of a Pacific Islands team appearing in the penultimate stage for the first time. Number eight Billy Vunipola has acknowledged his side are “public enemy number one” but points out that historical anti-English sentiment means they are well versed in fighting against popular opinion. On the favourites’ side is that the vast numbers of Red Rose fans who have followed their team in France will be out in force again, turning the Stade Velodrome into a home venue.

War on the floor

England’s headline selections have been Marcus Smith ousting Freddie Steward at full-back and Owen Farrell replacing George Ford at fly-half, but the back row is expected to be the key battleground. Fiji are breakdown masters led by Levani Botia, who is exceptional over the ball, and Borthwick has noted their ability to win penalties in this area of the game. While England’s response will be a team effort, Lawes, Tom Curry and Ben Earl have crucial roles to play on the floor knowing the Islanders must not be allowed to gain a foothold there.

Can lightening strike twice?

Fiji are a significant step up in opposition for England, who were drawn in the kindest of the four World Cup groups. Fresh in the minds is their 30-22 victory at Twickenham in August, their first ever win against the Red Rose and a highly impressive performance. They grew progressively worse during the group phase, culminating in a shock defeat by Portugal, but one of the greatest and best prepared teams in Fiji’s history has the capacity to deliver a special moment for a rugby-mad nation of 925,000 people.

Jordan Henderson was booed by some England fans on a night when Ollie Watkins helped Gareth Southgate’s much-changed side secure an unconvincing 1-0 win against Australia.

A sold-out Wembley crowd watched a surprisingly hard-fought friendly between these great sporting rivals on Friday night as the hosts experimented with Euro 2024 in mind.

England can wrap up qualification against Italy on Tuesday night and Watkins boosted his chances of being on the plane to Germany with a goal and solid display.

The Socceroos can count themselves unlucky to leave Wembley without so much as a goal to celebrate.

Lewis Dunk’s brilliant block denied Ryan Strain ending a fine team move just before half-time and Connor Metcalfe headed off the outside of the post late in the second period.

But England rode their luck to emerge victorious as Watkins, winning his first cap since March 2022, turned in Jack Grealish’s cross-shot at the far post in the 57th minute having earlier hit a post.

The in-form Aston Villa striker will have boosted his chance of being regular back-up to captain Harry Kane, whose place on the bench meant Henderson wore the armband on Friday.

There were murmurs from the crowd when his named was read out before England’s first home game since his controversial move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq.

That reception turned to jeers when he was replaced in the second half of a match that began with the innocent victims of the conflict in Israel and Palestine being remembered.

The Football Association was criticised by the UK government and the Jewish community in the build-up to the match for its response to recent devastating events.

The Wembley arch was not lit up on a night when both sides wore black armbands and observed a period of silence before kick-off.

Southgate made 10 alterations from last month’s friendly win in Scotland, leading to a sloppiness and disorganisation that allowed Australia to settle and threaten.

A slight touch prevented Watkins sweeping home with the first noteworthy attack of the night and Sam Johnstone soon brilliantly stopped Keanu Baccus’ curling effort going in off Fikayo Tomori.

England remained in control of first-half possession, but Australia continued to offer the greater threat.

Mitch Duke connected brilliantly with a low cross, flashing a first-time strike under pressure narrowly wide before Kye Rowles hammered over following a set-piece scramble.

England’s carelessness was summed up by James Maddison’s slip and strike out for a throw-in, but the Tottenham man showed his quality when slipping through Watkins.

The Aston Villa frontman took the ball around Mat Ryan and got away a bobbling effort from an acute angle that came back off the far post in the 34th minute.

Debutant Levi Colwill and Conor Gallagher received bookings in quick succession as a frustrating half continued, although it would have been worse was it not for Dunk – the only survivor from the side that started in Scotland.

Graham Arnold’s outfit showed skill and confidence playing out from the back, with Martin Boyle following fine hold up play by playing in Strain to get away an attempt that was blocked brilliantly by the Brighton skipper.

It was a moment Australia were made to rue in the 57th minute.

England returned from the break with more urgency and Trent Alexander-Arnold swung a ball over to the back post after an initial free-kick was cleared.

Grealish controlled and hit an attempt across goal that Watkins slid to turn home on the line – his third goal in eight England appearances.

Southgate made a quadruple change as he turned to his talent-filled bench with around 30 minutes remaining.

Henderson was among those withdrawn and Friday’s captain was booed by sections of the Wembley crowd, which he made a point of applauding as Kieran Trippier took the armband.

Baccus dragged wide as Australia tried to claw back an equaliser and Metcalfe was free to meet a corner with a powerful header off the outside of the post in the 80th minute.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah came on for his England debut and the visitors failed in their attempt to grab a memorable late goal.

Wembley fell silent ahead of England’s friendly against Australia in memory of those killed in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas as the Football Association faced fresh criticism for not lighting up the stadium’s arch in their honour.

The FA announced plans on Thursday for players to wear black armbands and for those inside the stadium to observe a period of silence “to remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine”.

But they stopped short from lighting the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israeli flag, a gesture they opted to employ ahead of the Ukraine match earlier this year as blue and yellow adorned the stadium’s signature landmark.

Jordan Henderson and Mat Ryan, the respective England and Australia captains on the night, led the two sets of players to the centre-circle as everyone inside the stadium observed an impeccable period of silence as the big screens carried a sombre message.

“Tonight we remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine,” it read.

“Our thoughts are with them, and their families and friends in England and Australia and with all the communities who are affected by this ongoing conflict.

“Tonight we stand for humanity and an end to the death, violence, fear and suffering.”

Hamas’ assault on Saturday and smaller attacks since have killed more than 1,300 people in Israel, including 247 soldiers — a toll unseen in Israel for decades — and the ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 1,530 people in Gaza, according to authorities on both sides.

On Thursday, the Cabinet minister responsible for sport, Lucy Frazer, criticised the FA in a social media post, calling the decision “extremely disappointing”.

Then, just hours before kick-off at Wembley, Israel Football Association president Moshe Zuares hit out at what he deemed a lack of support for the country.

“There are moments in history when truth is one, sharp and clear. Such is the present time. More than 1,200 children, babies, women, men and old people were slaughtered by a barbaric enemy, who committed crimes against humanity,” he said in a statement released on social media.

“The only sin of the victims was that they were Israelis. Those who are afraid to light up a stadium in memory of the murdered and for the sake of historical truth, for reasons that cannot be understood at all and perhaps it is better not to even try, are in an even darker time than the one in my country is currently in.

“When this happens by the FA of a nation that has always known how to be a moral lighthouse for the free world, it is more disappointing than ever. I tried to explain this to my colleagues in the English FA several times in the past few days but they insisted on not understand (sic). Now they are the ones who need to explain.”

A rabbi working on a Football Association faith group has resigned over the governing body’s response to the Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens last weekend.

Alex Goldberg wrote to the FA to say he was “profoundly disappointed” that there were no plans for a specific tribute to the victims of those attacks.

He said the decision not to light up the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israeli flag ahead of the friendly between England and Australia on Friday night had been “received badly” and also questioned the decision not to permit the flags of any nation to be brought into Wembley besides those of England and Australia.

“Many see the statement only to permit flags and representations of the competing nations as eradicating Jewish symbols and it has compounded grievances with the gravity of the recent events, but also inadvertently neglects the security and emotional well-being of Jewish fans who may be in attendance,” he wrote in a letter published by the Jewish News.

The FA responded to Rabbi Goldberg’s letter by saying: “We are sorry to hear of Rabbi Alex’s decision to resign from his role in our Faith in Football group.

“Although this is an informal group that is not part of the FA’s governance structure, we are grateful for the support he has provided over the years.

“It is also important to clarify that our decision not to allow Israeli or Palestine flags into Wembley Stadium was made at the direct request of senior members of the Jewish community.”

Sam Matavesi has been named on the bench for Fiji’s World Cup quarter-final against England, despite his father Sireli dying earlier in the week.

Matavesi left the Islanders’ camp in Marseille to attend the funeral in Cornwall, where Sireli had settled after a tour by the Fiji Barbarians in the 1980s, but returned on Thursday.

The Northampton hooker is set to appear in the second half of Sunday’s Stade Veldrome clash, with head coach Simon Raiwalui confident he is ready for the occasion.

“We had a setback during the week with Samuel Matavesi’s father passing away. He came back in this morning. He was adamant that he wanted to be here,” Raiwalui said.

“He’s a fantastic young man, very good on his details, so there are no worries there. It’s just a matter of him grieving, but I have no doubt that he will be ready to play.”

Fiji will have the support of neutrals willing a team from the Pacific Islands to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time and Raiwalui insists they are not yet ready to leave the World Cup.

“It’s massive for our country. We came to this tournament to succeed, we got through the first part and we want to continue,” he said.

“We are a nation of 900,000 people that lives and breathes rugby, and I don’t know how many Fijians worldwide.

“We had massive support from the French, from the people who come to the ground. We really want to enjoy the occasion and show our best rugby.”

“First and foremost I’m proud to be a Fijian but I’m also proud of the so-called developing nations, pushing for the global game, how we can improve it and get more opportunities, how we break that barrier down.

“This World Cup has been a fantastic example of other teams coming in and playing fantastic rugby and putting on a spectacle for the world. We are proud of where we come from and we want to embrace that.”

England’s World Cup bolter Harry Brook admits he is still trying to “figure out the format” after being asked to fill a Ben Stokes-shaped gap in the one-day side.

Just six weeks ago Brook was making plans to watch the tournament from home after being left out of the provisional squad, but things have moved fast since then.

He replaced Jason Roy just before the deadline after an eye-catching response to being left out and, when Stokes suffered a hip injury shortly after arriving in India, Brook found himself promoted from reserve batter to first-choice for games against New Zealand and Bangladesh.

Stokes looks set to miss out again on Sunday, when they face Jonathan Trott’s Afghanistan in Delhi, but was running more freely in training at the Arun Jaitley Stadium two days out.

That would give Brook another chance to make the most of his unexpected opportunity in a version of the game that has taken a back seat in the Yorkshire batter’s formative years.

Already a rising star in the Test arena and a T20 world champion, he has played a grand total of 23 List A fixtures, with eight of those on the international stage.

With the advent of The Hundred relegating the Metro Bank Cup’s status, he is representative of a generation of upcoming English talent with limited 50-over experience and finds himself in the unusual position of learning the ropes at the highest possible level.

“I’m very inexperienced in this format. It does make a big difference having not played it, I think,” he said.

“Hopefully I can pick it up fairly quickly after the last couple of games and, if I get another go, then try and make a big score.

“You’ve just got to try to construct an innings better than I have done in the games I’ve played, just keep on trying to learn and figure out the format.”

Brook has made bright starts in both Ahmedabad and Dharamshala only to be dismissed for 25 and 20.

The numbers tell a story – with his 45 runs comprising 34 in boundaries and coming off just 31 balls. In a side famed for its relentless commitment to attack, there is a suspicion that the 24-year-old may have gone too hard, too soon.

“Everybody’s just said ‘you’ve got a lot more time than you think’,” he said.

“It’s almost approaching the start of your innings like a Test match and then, the longer you’re in, the easier it gets and the less the ball’s moving around.

“I’ve played so much T20 cricket over the last couple of years, if you see a ball go above your eyeline your eyes light up and you want to smack it. But I’ll just give myself a bit more time and make a big one soon.”

England are taking Stokes’ fitness on a day-by-day basis, but the next game against an in-form South Africa is likely to be a greater priority than Afghanistan. Either way, there is no question that a place awaits as soon as he gets a green light.

“Obviously Stokesy has to come back in. He’s one of the best players to ever play for England,” was Brook’s assessment. “Whether it’s me or someone else missing out, he’s 100 per cent coming back in the team.”

Chris Woakes was absent from Friday’s floodlit training session due to sickness, with Gus Atkinson and David Willey standing by.

The pacy Atkinson has an even thinner track record in 50-over cricket than Brook, playing just five times in the format and taking just six wickets, but has impressed England with his direct, attacking style and has the pace to trouble top batters.

Marcus Smith has been backed to deliver on the biggest night of his career after England gambled by picking the Harlequins magician at full-back for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji.

Smith will make only his second professional start in the number 15 jersey and, while he has also banked a number of influential cameos as a replacement, he remains a converted fly-half who is unproven in the position at the highest level.

England believe he will continue to thrive in his new role, providing a cutting edge in attack and a second ball-playing option, and have sacrificed the ultra dependable Freddie Steward to accommodate him.

Another seismic selection sees Owen Farrell replace George Ford at fly-half even though the Sale ringmaster has excelled at the World Cup, delivering man-of-the-match displays against Argentina and Japan.

All eyes will be on Smith, however, in the hope that he can reproduce the fireworks seen in the group match against Chile when he ran in two tries.

Harlequins team-mate Joe Marler has known the 24-year-old since he arrived at Twickenham Stoop as a teenager and quickly realised he was a special talent.

“Marcus is a big-match player. I’m really happy for him to get his opportunity to start again in a World Cup. He’ll thrive,” Marler said.

“He’s shown it off the bench in the moments we’ve needed him and I hope he can do that from the start.

“At the club he was confident early on, even to the point where I turn around and say ‘I’m going to have to say something to this guy, he’s gobbing off at me’. I’ve been at the club 10 years and he’s gobbing off at me.

“I was like ‘he’s a jumped up, entitled, little, private school kid’. And then when you realise how good he is at rugby and why he’s doing what he’s doing, I was like ‘I’m going to listen to him because he’s going to get us into positions where we can win more rugby games because he knows what he’s talking about’.

“He’s done it consistently at club level and now it’s about now doing it consistently at international level. What better place to do that than starting in the quarter-final?”

Farrell will dovetail with Smith in attack with the pair each operating at first and second receiver at different times. England’s captain has noted his team-mate’s appetite to take on the opposition.

“I’m impressed with how much Marcus wants to get after it – how much he wants the ball, how much he wants to make a difference,” Farrell said.

“From what I’ve seen so far the bigger the occasion, the more he wants to do that. It’s not like Marcus hasn’t played in big games – he’s won the Premierships.

“He wants to have a big impact on the game and so far he’s been doing that. I see it being no different this weekend.”

England field eight survivors from the starting XV that took on South Africa in the World Cup final four years ago and it could be a final appearance for several members of Borthwick’s squad – providing additional motivation against Fiji.

“There are definitely a number of us that won’t play for England again after this tournament,” Marler said.

“We have been together a number of years, we have built friendships and bonds. We want to give this our all and finish on a high.

“You never know when your last game is. You’ve got to make the most of what you can.”

England have rolled the dice for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji by naming Marcus Smith at full-back in place of the jettisoned Freddie Steward.

Steward has been an automatic pick since making his Test debut in July 2021 but the high-ball master is omitted from the 23 entirely as Steve Borthwick instead opts for the greater attacking threat supplied by Smith.

It will be the converted fly-half’s second start in the number 15 jersey having starred against Chile during the group phase, but Fiji are a significant step up in opposition even if they lack a top-class kicking game.

Among Smith’s duties will be acting as a second playmaker to captain Owen Farrell, who has been picked at fly-half ahead of George Ford for England’s biggest game since the 2019 World Cup final.

It is another seismic selection call from Borthwick given that Ford was man of the match in the Pool D victories over Argentina and Japan and is the form player in the position.

The Sale ringmaster is confined to a supporting role from the bench as Borthwick delivers a show of faith in his skipper, who will be making his third appearance at the World Cup.

England and Fiji will meet for only the ninth time when they clash in Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final at Stade Velodrome.

Here, the PA news agency recalls four memorable encounters between the rivals.

2023 – Twickenham: England 22 Fiji 30

England endured one of the darkest days in their history when they lost to Fiji for the first time ever in what was also their first defeat to a current tier two nation. The Islanders fully deserved their historic moment, playing smart and entertaining rugby.

2015 – Twickenham: England 35 Fiji 11

It took the determination of full-back Mike Brown, who ran in two tries, to end Fiji’s uprising before England pulled away in the final quarter. A nervy start to the home World Cup was a signpost of the calamity to come for Stuart Lancaster’s side.

1999 – Twickenham: England 45 Fiji 24

Fiji were only outscored 4-3 on the try count with the boot of Jonny Wilkinson doing most of the damage in the form of a 23-point haul. England rested some of their bigger names for this World Cup play-off and were made to work for their win.

1991 – Suva: Fiji 12 England 28

England’s second of just two visits to the Fijian capital almost finished in disaster. Will Carling was at the helm as the Red Rose entered the final quarter, deadlocked at 12-12 before rallying through tries by Rory Underwood and Rob Andrew.

England made unbeaten progress through the Rugby World Cup group stage to secure a quarter-final against Fiji at Stade Velodrome on Sunday.

It will be their ninth appearance in the knockout phase having missed out on qualification just once before and here the PA news agency examines their last five outings at this stage of the tournament.

2019: Oita, Japan – England 40 Australia 16

What should have been a major hurdle was anything but as a clueless Wallabies side lacking any discernible game plan were outscored four tries to one, with England prop Kyle Sinckler touching down in memorable fashion.

2011: Auckland, New Zealand – England 12 France 19

Martin Johnson’s England paid the price for allowing France to romp 16 points ahead and, while they fought back, it was not enough to put a World Cup beset by off-field controversy out of its misery.

2007: Marseille, France – England 12 Australia 10

Jonny Wilkinson kicked four penalties but this victory was founded on the dominance of an England scrum that ground the Wallabies into submission, placing a dismal group campaign into the rear-view mirror.

2003: Brisbane, Australia – England 28 Wales 17

England were outscored three tries to one and had to rely on Wilkinson’s boot after a daredevil Wales side had moved 10-3 ahead, threatening an upset until Sir Clive Woodward’s men staggered over the finishing line.

1999: Paris, France – England 21 South Africa 44

A freakish performance from Jannie De Beer sent England crashing to defeat after South Africa’s second-choice fly-half behind the injured Henry Honiball landed a record five drop goals in the space of 31 minutes.

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