Manchester United ace Rashford, 18, will play against Australia at the Stadium of Light tomorrow night in what has now become an audition to prove he can produce the goods in France.
Sturridge has complained of a calf problem and had a scan on Tuesday at Manchester City’s training ground, where England have been based this week.
The extent of the injury is unclear but the problem was serious enough for him to sit out on Wednesday’s training session.
FA officials were not prepared to explain his absence, creating a sense of mystery around the situation. But sources confirmed that it is indeed another injury scare for a striker who has played only 58 minutes of international football since September 2014.
Sturridge’s fragility - mental as well as physical - has been a concern for some time.
In November, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expressed his frustration with the 26-year-old’s apparent inability to play with any level of pain, particularly when returning from injury.
‘Your body has to learn to adapt to new intensities of training and in this time you have to learn what is serious pain and what is only pain,’ said Klopp, in reference to Sturridge.
Until this week Sturridge had gone four months without an injury - his longest spell since June 2014 - and managed to end the domestic season as Liverpool’s leading scorer with 13 goals.
He would say that is down to the personalised training plan that has been devised for him by the Anfield medical staff, and one has to wonder if a change of circumstances with England does unsettle him. He has a terrible injury record when on international duty, having pulled up on four previous occasions - in May 2013, September 2013, November 2013 and September 2014.
Roy Hodgson will be hugely disappointed by this latest setback, not least because Sturridge underlined his quality with a stunning goal in last week’s Europa League final. That game meant he missed Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Turkey and therefore needed to be involved in the Australia game, if only as a substitute.
The FA confirmed that, contrary to what he said after the Turkey match, Hodgson plans to select an ‘experimental side’ against the Socceroos.
That almost certainly means a start for Rashford, who could now clinch a place in Hodgson’s final 23-man party for Euro 2016.
Hodgson is an admirer of the United youngster, who can count England assistant Gary Neville among his biggest fans.
Together, they see something special in a player who has so far scored eight goals in 18 matches for his club.
When Hodgson selected Rashford in his initial 26-man squad, the manager insisted he was not there to make up the numbers. As Hodgson said, he has the ability to ‘knock someone off their perch’.
A number of other players will be striving to do the same when they line up in Sunderland.
Fraser Forster is expected to come in for Joe Hart in goal, while Nathaniel Clyne will be invited to stake a claim for the right-back berth ahead of Kyle Walker.
With Gary Cahill also missing training on Wednesday, there is the intriguing prospect of John Stones starting alongside Chris Smalling in the central defensive partnership many would favour for France.
In midfield, Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson are expected to play, mainly because both have recently returned from injury and need match time. Hodgson also wants another look at Danny Drinkwater.
With Harry Kane rested and Jamie Vardy given time off to get married, Hodgson is also expected to spring a surprise with his forwards.
Rashford and Adam Lallana should start, with Wayne Rooney perhaps deployed on the opposite flank to Lallana.
That said, Hodgson will be mindful of the fact he still needs to study the merits of Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend and Fabian Delph.
Original source: Rashford gets golden chance