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Jag's eager for new era

PHIL Jagielka has hailed the "healthy" new competition for defensive places in the England team and contrasted the current situation with the previous era when John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were guaranteed to start.

Both Terry and Ferdinand are now in the international wilderness after dominating England's defence over the past decade and there is the very clear sense that a new dawn will really begin at centre-back in tomorrow's World Cup qualifier against Poland.

Jagielka is likely to be the immediate beneficiary of Terry's international retirement and, ahead of resuming his old Everton partnership with Joleon Lescott in Warsaw, he revealed his mixed emotions at the shock news that Terry would never again play for England.

"John and Rio played together for England forever, didn't they?" said Jagielka. "They had a great partnership. In the last 10 or 11 months, many things have changed. With John deciding to call it a day, it opens the door even more. It is not certain who is first name down and that only makes it healthy. No one is guaranteed a place any more.

"I wouldn't say I resigned myself to not starting but that's the role you get put into when there are people in front of you who aren't particularly giving you the opportunity to get a game. If the manager did decide to rest a couple of players in the previous years, when the international qualifiers came around again, you would expect John Terry and Rio Ferdinand to be playing again."

Asked if the enhanced opportunity personally had caused mixed feelings about Terry's exit from the international stage, Jagielka said: "Yes, definitely. If John was here I would say exactly the same thing. I'm gutted as an England fan. He has been a fantastic player for England, he's put his body on the line for many years now.

"But he had his reasons. It was his decision -- he wasn't forced with a gun to his head or anything. If you look at it from a purely personal point of view, it was one less person to compete with playing for England.

"As much as I was gutted he wasn't going to play for England again, it was also an opportunity for me to try to go higher up the pecking order. I've been around the squad for the last couple of years or so, played a game here and there, and I'd like to play on a more consistent basis."

Terry and Ferdinand have amassed 159 England games between them but, in Lescott and Jagielka, Roy Hodgson is now almost certain to turn to a pairing with a combined 38 caps. Chelsea's Gary Cahill is also pushing for a starting place but a major advantage for Lescott and Jagielka is their history playing together for Everton.

"It just works, the communication, the way we play," said Jagielka. "Obviously left-foot, right-foot also helps. It clicks. You think in a similar way. It helps especially being centre-halves. It's all about partnerships. If you are telling a person something and he's listening, you are both on the same page."

Ashley Cole is another member of England's old guard whose place in under increasing threat and, although the Chelsea left back is expected to return to the team to face Poland tomorrow, Jagielka believes that Leighton Baines is now Cole's equal. Baines has started all four of England's games since Euro 2012.

"I don't see there's any difference really," said Jagielka. "Ashley has performed at that level for a long time now and put himself up there as one of the world's top left-backs but, if you watch Bainesy enough, he's been by far our best player all season at Everton.

"It is a test to see if he can stay at those levels, to keep performing as well as he has done and possibly keep Ash out of the team. It will be a nice headache for the manager. I think I'd be tossing a coin, heads or tails."

Tomorrow's match has an added personal significance for Jagielka as his grandparents are Polish, although he says that there was never any temptation to play for Poland. "It would have been an option but I was born in England, raised in England and I see myself as English," he said.

Poland's main threat is likely to come from striker Robert Lewandowski and Jagielka admitted that it could be intimidating to watch the edited highlights of his best recent matches, including Borussia Dortmund's 1-1 Champions League draw with Manchester City.

"We know what ability they've got and the threats they carry -- this game can set the agenda in the group," he said.