Saturday 20 April 2019

Loftus-Cheek focused on England and not concerns about racism in Russia

Loftus-Cheek is pushing for a starting role in England’s World Cup opener against Tunisia on Monday.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, left, and Phil Jones, centre, during England training (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, left, and Phil Jones, centre, during England training (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Press Association Sport staff

Ruben Loftus-Cheek played down concerns about racism in Russia but admitted the subject has been discussed in England team meetings.

Left-back Danny Rose told his family to stay in the United Kingdom rather than travel to the World Cup because of fears about abuse.

Yet Chelsea midfielder Loftus-Cheek, who spent last season on loan at Crystal Palace, said: “That’s Danny’s choice.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek talks to the media in Repino (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“I’m not thinking about it too much – if it happens we’ll deal with it but, looking ahead, I’m just going with the flow.”

Asked if the issue had been discussed as a group, he added: “Yes, we’ve had a few meetings on it to get a vision as a group, how they think about it and what way to go.”

Loftus-Cheek said preparations for the Three Lions’ opening clash against Tunisia on Monday are well under way.

England manager Gareth Southgate has some decisions to make ahead of Monday (Owen Humphreys/PA)

However the 22-year-old, along with the rest of the squad, are still in the dark over who boss Gareth Southgate will pick to start in Volgograd.

“We’ve just started to go over tactics; meetings and analysing the first game, I expect there will be a lot more of that in the next couple of days,” he said.

“Any game in the World Cup is a tough game. The atmosphere brings a lot out of both teams. We’re ready for a tough game and an aggressive start from them, so we need to be ready.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed on loan at Crystal Palace last season (Adam Davy/Empics)

“We might have to wait until game day (to find out who starts) but who knows?”

Asked if he would like to find out sooner or later, Loftus-Cheek added: “It’s different for different players.

“I’m not too bothered but if I had to choose I’d like to know earlier so you can get your head around it.”

Marcus Rashford trained for the first time since England landed in Russia as all 23 squad members took part on Friday morning.

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Rashford was absent from the first two days at the Three Lions’ Spartak Zelenogorsk base due to a minor knee complaint, but has now rejoined the group.

The 20-year-old Manchester United forward turned in a man-of-the-match performance in England’s final warm-up friendly against Costa Rica but looks set for a place on the bench on Monday.

A number of national newspapers claimed on Thursday evening that Southgate will opt to put Raheem Sterling in support of lead striker Harry Kane, in a side containing nine World Cup debutants.

That would mean starts for the likes of Harry Maguire over Gary Cahill, Jordan Henderson ahead of Eric Dier and Ashley Young at left wing-back.

Regardless of who Southgate selects, the return to training of Rashford – revealed on The ‘Lions’ Den’ show on England’s YouTube channel – is good news for the manager, who has so far avoided any other injury scares and kept the initial 23-man squad he named in mid-May intact.

England players go through their stretches on the training pitch (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Southgate revealed Rashford’s “slight knock” upon landing in Russia and a number of team-mates attempted to allay concerns, as did the forward himself.

“Thanks for the messages I’ve been getting,” Rashford posted on Twitter. “Picked up a slight niggle but nothing to worry about #ThreeLions”.

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