Jarrad Branthwaite could well force his way into the England squad in the next year.

That's according to the Cumbrian defender's Everton team-mate James Tarkowski.

Former Carlisle United man Branthwaite has starred in the Premier League for the Toffees so far this season.

The player from Wigton is a regular in England's Under-21s and captained them earlier this month.

But Tarkowski believes senior international honours are within the 21-year-old's grasp.

“I thought he might have had a sniff with the last squad when [John] Stones and [Lewis] Dunk dropped out," said Tarkowski, speaking in the Liverpool Echo.

"Jarrad had a shout. To be fair, Ezri Konsa at Villa has been excellent and they are flying so I understand why he is there.

News and Star: Jarrad Branthwaite captained England Under-21s against Northern Ireland recentlyJarrad Branthwaite captained England Under-21s against Northern Ireland recently (Image: PA)

"But it would not surprise me if Jarrad is around it in the next year the way he has been playing.”

Tarkowski, speaking ahead of Everton's 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest yesterday, also talked about the way their defensive partnership has blossomed.

He said the Cumbrian is "gifted athletically" and has also benefited from Tarkowski's experience.

"I am more experienced so perhaps have that understanding of the game, talking and walking him through the game, and athletically he is so gifted I have great trust in him dealing in situations by himself without needing to over-cover him," said Tarkowski.

Branthwaite has made 13 first-team appearances so far this season and his form sees him continually the subject of transfer speculation.

Reports last week said Manchester United were set to step up their interest in the former Carlisle academy product, with Tottenham Hotspur among the other top clubs linked with the defender.

Branthwaite was handed the England Under-21 captaincy by head coach Lee Carsley for their latest game against Northern Ireland, a 3-0 Euro qualifying victory at the defender's club ground of Goodison Park.