Joe Rankin-Costello isn’t yet ready to return to first-team action as Rovers continue to task a no risk approach to his return.

The Academy graduate had a setback in his recovery from a fractured metatarsal sustained in April that pushed back his return having initially been expected to return to action by now. That meant there was a month between his last comeback match and the Manchester United friendly where he played half a game.

That still leaves the 22-year-old with work to do in a bid to prove his fitness to Tony Mowbray after issues last season restricted him to just 16 appearances.

That could come in an Under-23s fixture at Manchester United today, with Mowbray wanting him to fully trust in his body before putting him back in the side.

Putting him in a similar bracket as Scott Wharton, Mowbray said: "Joe Rankin-Costello won't be involved at the weekend. It's about their welfare, we have to give them every opportunity to prove to themselves that they're ready to compete.

"Once you're in the first-team, there are no easy days. There are no 'look after yourself' type of days. You have to give everything you've got and put your body on the line. At the moment we don't feel they're ready to do that."

Meanwhile, Wharton is catching the eye on the training pitch as he continues his recovery from a ruptured Achilles.

The central defender is 10 months into his comeback from the injury sustained at Brentford in December 2020, with a big step forward for the Academy graduate coming in a behind closed doors friendly with Manchester United last week.

That was his first match action having returned to training last month with the 24-year-old waiting for his next outing for the Under-23s, possibly as early as today’s Premier League 2 fixture at Manchester United, in his quest to push for a first-team return.

Wharton had spent much of Tony Mowbray’s tenure out on loan, with the manager keen to see him develop his physicality, and gain experience, which he did most recently with Northampton Town in 2019/20.

He then returned to Rovers and made his breakthrough in the first half of last season, making eight appearances in all, including a first Championship outing since August 2017.

Of his progress towards a first-team return, Mowbray said: “I think Wharton's looked majestic on the training field. He has looked like a real smooth, composed footballer who picks the right pass every time and gives the team a level of composure at the back, stepping in and giving it to a midfield player.

“He's a talented boy and yet he's been out a long, long time. He's played 45 minutes of football so it's not right to throw him into the first-team.

“He needs 90 minutes of Under-23s football in the next week or two and once he feels confident in his own brain that he can get through it, and the medical department have ticked him off, then he'll be in contention.

“At this moment he's not in contention, although he's looked super on the training pitches.”

While Wharton finds himself in a similar position to Rankin-Costello, Bradley Dack, Rovers’ other long-term injury concern is working towards a return to action before the end of 2021.

Bradley Johnson also featured at Manchester United, and has now played three matches since injuring his hamstring in a friendly at AFC Fylde in July, to become the latest player to return from injury.

Jan Paul van Hecke made his first outing in Rovers colours since signing on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion in that United fixture, with the Dutchman expected to be in the matchday squad for today’s game with Coventry City.

Mowbray added: “I think van Hecke has to be in the equation. I speak to all the players about where they are and he could probably do with a full 90 minutes at some stage but he’s feeling powerful and confident and he’ll be in the equation.

“Hopefully he can get up to speed and be competing to get in the team.”