Roy Hodgson has no choice but to offer a glimpse of the future against France after England’s injury problems worsened.
Fabian Delph’s withdrawal from the squad on the eve of tonight’s poignant match at Wembley took the number of absent regulars to 16.
It is a remarkable number of injuries that has led to call-ups for Jesse Lingard – a Manchester United player with just 193 minutes of Premier League experience – and Tottenham’s Ryan Mason.
England’s squad has just 359 caps between them and Wayne Rooney makes up nearly a third of that figure, so Hodgson will be relying on his inexperienced talents against Euro 2016 hosts France.
“This match would never have taken on the importance we were hoping because so many players are unavailable for the game,” said Hodgson.
“It will be a very young team, six players under the age of 22.
“Although I would have liked all the players that we are thinking of for the Euros to be available, and not gone too far down an experimental route, the way these two matches have panned out it is experimental from our point of view. Today we lost Fabian Delph, alongside (Jamie) Vardy and (Michael) Carrick – three of the players who are more experienced – so we are in a difficult situation in terms of not having a lot of players to choose from and we are playing against a very good team.
“With all these players missing, who we believe come March will be back in the fold and adding to the competition for a place in the 23, I didn’t want to turn to an individual for one game who would not have a chance again in the future.
“That explains the inclusion of Jesse Lingard and when we lost Delph we turned to Ryan Mason, because we’re pursuing a policy that we set out some time ago and we are trying to stay faithful to it.”
Manager Hodgson’s comments suggest Tottenham duo Dele Alli and Eric Dier are set to make their full debuts against France.
Such news about relatively inexperienced players could be seen as a lack of strength in depth, but captain Rooney believes it highlights the exciting potential available to them.
“There are a lot more young players that have come into the squad now and it is a great opportunity for them to represent England against a good France team,” he said.
“We need to be together and try to put our game-plan into effect, because we know it will be tough.
“As an England captain and an England fan, I love that the manager has faith in the youngsters and will reward them for their performances in the club teams.”
France captain Hugo Lloris hopes the game will be a show of solidarity as well as a chance to “escape” from the drama affecting his homeland.
Didier Deschamps’ side made the trip to Wembley despite a series of terrorist attacks which hit Paris, while Les Bleus were playing against Germany.
That decision came from French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet and, although Lloris admitted to having doubts, he supports it.
He said: “The president made the best decision, I think, to play this game. It will be an opportunity for us to show character and share this moment with all the English people.”