Boss Gareth Southgate admits England must plan for a World Cup without Harry Kane despite backing his return to fitness.
The Three Lions manager is confident the Tottenham striker will make the plane for Russia but needs alternative options should the worst happen.
Kane, who has scored 35 goals for Spurs this season, is out until next month after suffering an ankle injury following a collision with Asmir Begovic in Sunday’s 4-1 win at Bournemouth.
He said: “It’s part of our World Cup bingo that we’ve got going on. Base camp hotel, injury to key player…
“I’ve had Harry available for six out of 14 games so far, so we always need a ‘what-if’ scenario planning in our minds.
“I’m very clear. At this stage we want to be keeping options available because as you’ve seen with Harry, something can happen at the drop of a hat.
“Players are developing quickly and we have some good young players who are coming through, youngsters developing at rate of knots.
“I’m very comfortable with team I’d pick tomorrow, but equally I can’t just have that in my head because in this job, things change.
“We are experimenting with some players we think we need to know might come into the fringes of the squad.
“Also our young players are developing so quickly and we have faith in them over a longer period of time so to give them experience now is critical.”
Kane has scored seven goals in his six games under Southgate and 12 in 23 caps overall.
He was sidelined for 10 games last season with a similar problem and injured the ankle again in March 2017, leaving him out for a month.
But Southgate, who has called up uncapped Nick Pope, James Tarkowski, Lewis Cook and Alfie Mawson, eased fears the 24-year-old’s ankle was becoming an issue.
“He’s as robust as any player we have got, he’s just unfortunate to be in collisions where he’s going in where it hurts.
“To score goals, you have to put your body on the line. He is one of the players we are least concerned about in terms of robustness.”