STEVEN Defour believes his Turf Moor midfielder partner Jack Cork ‘has to be’ in the England squad for next summer’s World Cup.

Cork won his first Three Lions cap in November, earning a late call-up from Gareth Southgate after a series of withdrawals and coming on at Wembley against Germany.

The 28-year-old is likely to face a battle to make Southgate’s final 23-man squad for Russia but Defour, who has started every Premier League game alongside Cork this season, has hailed him as one of England’s best midfielders and insists he has to be on the plane.

That could lead to a showdown between the two men next summer, with England and Belgium drawn in the same World Cup group.

Asked if Cork was good enough to make the Three Lions squad Defour said: “Of course. When I see the other midfielders of the England squad Corky has to be in it. I’m not saying that because he’s a teammate, I’ve seen other midfielders play and I’ve seen Corky play. He has the same, if not better qualities than the other midfielders.”

Cork has played every minute of the Premier League campaign so far, impressing for the Clarets since his £8million summer switch from Swansea City.

It was that form that saw him called up by Southgate in November and Defour has hailed his midfield partner as a great ‘all-round’ player.

“He works a lot, his physical strength is really good,” the Belgium man said.

“When he gets the ball he’s so calm with it, he’s always trying to find a football solution.

“That’s what makes him one of the all-round midfielders and when I see the other England midfielders I can’t see why he shouldn’t be in.”

Defour saw Belgium paired with England in Russia when the Clarets squad watched the World Cup draw while on the coach travelling to Leicester City in December.

The 29-year-old makes no secret of his delight in drawing the Three Lions, although he believes it will work out as a good draw for both countries.

Asked if he was pleased to get England, Defour said with a smile: “Yeah.

“It’s a good draw for us and England I think. To draw Panama and Tunisia, both teams should qualify and we play each other in the last game for who is going to win it.”

Defour’s own chances of representing the Red Devils in Russia have received a boost with his and Burnley’s form this season.

The former Anderlecht midfielder has appeared a man reborn this term, putting the difficulties of his first season in England behind him to star for Sean Dyche’s side.

“Of course, everybody is talking now, especially this week when we got to fourth, about Burnley, even if Belgium,” Defour said.

“They’re saying Burnley is doing a remarkable season with me in it, so it’s good for me and for the team and hopefully it increases my chances to go to the World Cup.”