World Cup: Theo Walcott hails England's youngsters ahead of Moldova game

Theo Walcott (far right) training with the England squad on Tuesday morning

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Theo Walcott believes the absence of a number of England's most experienced players, ahead of their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, will give the youngsters in the camp a chance to shine.

Roy Hodgson's team was hit by a number of big-name withdrawals at the weekend, most notably Wayne Rooney who was joined on the sidelines by his Manchester United team-mate Phil Jones and Liverpool defender Glen Johnson.

But Walcott, looking ahead to Friday's Group H match at home to Moldova and then Tuesday's trip to Ukraine, remains upbeat about the strength of the England squad.

The Arsenal player said: "It's a great opportunity for the youngsters coming into the squad to take their chance.

"I came in at a young age and got a hat-trick against Croatia, so there are chances to be taken and if you're good enough the manager will pick you.

"There is a good balance between the younger players and more experienced ones and it can only be positive for England to see the youngsters coming through.

"I've trained with them and they look bubbly and confident."

"There is a good balance between the younger players and more experienced ones and it can only be positive for England to see the youngsters coming through. I've trained with them and they look bubbly and confident."

Theo Walcott

Strikers Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe, as well as defender Steven Caulker, missed training on Tuesday but Walcott does not believe there will be any problems regarding their fitness ahead of the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Speaking about Sturridge, Walcott added: "He's got a knock but fingers crossed he should be OK for Friday and Tuesday."

And Walcott refused to get drawn into the debate about whether he could be given the main striker's role should Sturridge not be fit for Moldova, especially with Rooney already ruled out.

He went on: "That's not for me to say. It's up to the manager and I'm happy to play anywhere."

Another absentee on Tuesday was Walcott's team-mate Jack Wilshere who was substituted during the north London derby at the weekend because of a stomach bug.

However, Walcott says he too should be ready for Friday evening's game at Wembley: "Jack has an illness but just needs a few days to recover."

Although the home game with Moldova should provide England with three points, the Arsenal forward says the squad will not be complacent ahead of what appears to be a more difficult and vital game in the Ukraine capital Kiev next week.

England beat Moldova 5-0 away in September of last year but Walcott only has eyes for the first game.

He stressed: "We must treat Moldova with respect. I like to look to the first game and put in a good performance to take to the Ukraine. We are professional, we know the task ahead."

With four more group games to play, England are currently two points behind leaders Montenegro - who have played one game more - and one point ahead of Ukraine.