England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate is more than happy to have lost the services of Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling to the senior squad - and is not discounting the possibility of some of his current Young Lions making the step up in time for this summer's World Cup.

Southgate feels it is important for his players' belief that they see some of their under-21s colleagues take what is the intended "pathway" and advance to Roy Hodgson's squad, as Saints defender Shaw and Liverpool winger Sterling have ahead of tomorrow's international friendly against Denmark at Wembley.

"We want that pathway to be there and it is great for the other boys in the squad to see that we have that close link with Roy and that he is looking at them in the matches," said Southgate.

The under-21s, whose squad contains Saints midfielder James Ward-Prowse, take on Wales in a 2015 European Championship qualifier at Derby's iPro Stadium tomorrow.

"When the first team are here (St George's Park) he looks at them (the under-21s) in training.

"They need to see that it is possible and achievable, and it is.

"There are a number of them in the squad that have got a great chance of being part of the seniors over the next few years."

And on the prospect of some of the under-21s making that breakthrough soon enough to force their way into Hodgson's World Cup squad, Southgate added: "What is clear is that you have to play well here and play well with your club, and if you do that, the door is always open.

"I think Roy is always looking at players and always looking to see if his own squad can get stronger and better.

"None of us know what is going to happen injury-wise. So certainly for one or two, the door is open, I'm sure."

Hodgson stressed last week that there should be no assumption made that players he has left out of the 30-man squad for the Denmark game are therefore not in the running for a place at this summer's tournament in Brazil.

From within Southgate's party for the Wales contest, the likes of goalkeeper Jack Butland, defender Carl Jenkinson and winger Wilfried Zaha have senior England experience.

The Young Lions head into their encounter in fine fettle, lying top of their six-team qualifying group after winning five and drawing one of their six fixtures so far.

It has amounted to an encouraging start in the job for Southgate, who was appointed as boss just prior to the beginning of the campaign and saw his side record a 9-0 victory over San Marino last time out in November, a record-breaking England Under-21s score.

Reflecting on the way things have gone so far, the 43-year-old said: "We were really pleased with some of the principles we put in place and the way the boys responded to what we wanted to do.

"They are a pleasure to work with really. They are not quite where they want to be in terms of their careers yet and they all want to keep improving, and results have been very good due to the work they have done.

"Now, the key is whether we can get back together quickly as a group and remember what we are about and what we are trying to achieve, and keep pushing each other.

"We are very conscious that what we have done up to now has been great and very pleasing, but there is a long, long way to go and we have to continually evolve and improve."