GARETH Southgate dismissed "nonsense" talk of a club versus country row after revealing Danny Drinkwater turned down the chance to link up with England.

The Three Lions' World Cup preparations kick-off with back-to-back matches against Germany and Brazil – glamour friendlies they approach without a spate of key players.

Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson have pulled out of the squad, following the withdrawals of Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Harry Kane.

Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino's suggestion that the latter player will be fit in time for the derby with Arsenal after the international break raised eyebrows, intensifying murmurings of a potential issue between clubs and country.

Yet England manager Southgate could scarcely have been firmer in dismissing such talk.

He said: "I knew Harry Kane was in trouble because he stayed down. Harry Kane doesn't stay down, so I knew already we had a potential problem.

"Both him and Harry Winks were scanned, both scans our medical department have reviewed, and no way they were available for our two games. Spurs might risk them for the game with Arsenal, it's a different matter.

"I'm hearing there's talk of club v country – it's a nonsense. The players are injured and cannot play.

"With some of the players it's 100 per cent clear, there's a scan. With a couple of the other lads that have been in, there's ongoing injury issues with them.

"I have man-to-man discussions with them around 'where are you at with it?' 'how much risk do we want to take?'

"Having been a player, I am not a manager who just wants to wheel players out until they break, so I don't take risks with players. It's their livelihood, it's their career.

"If we're in a cup final or a critical game, maybe we have a really open conversation. But I think as a manager you have a duty of care to your players to make sure that things are done correctly."

Uncapped Burnley midfielder Jack Cork was brought in on Tuesday following the latest batch of withdrawals, rather than the likes of Jack Wilshere, Jonjo Shelvey or Drinkwater.

Chelsea midfielder Drinkwater has struggled for fitness since his summer move from Leicester and was sounded out by Southgate about joining up with the group.

Southgate said: "(Cork is) playing very well in a team that are playing well. He has played at every level for England previously.

"Danny Drinkwater I did speak to earlier in the week but he feels he's not fit enough to play.

"I think Jonjo is a different type of player – plays deeper, receives very deep, plays almost in a quarterback position for his club.

"We were needing something a little bit different for these games, so I had a good chat with (Burnley boss) Sean Dyche as well about Jack and he's delighted with what he's doing and he's a great character who has worked with a lot of the squad in the past. It's a really great moment for him."

Cork bolsters a midfield in which it is understood that uncapped Ruben Loftus-Cheek, currently on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, will start against Germany tomorrow.

Jack Butland looks likely to get the nod in goal but defender Gary Cahill is a doubt after missing training on the eve of the first friendly with a back issue.