Image: Gavin Williamson (centre) is said to have mixed up Maro Itoje (left) with Marcus Rashford (right). Pics: AP

Responding to reports that Gavin Williamson had confused him for Maro Itoje, England footballer Marcus Rashford wrote on Twitter: “Accent could have been a giveaway.”

Marcus Rashford has mocked Education Secretary Gavin Williamson after the politician was accused of confusing the footballer for England rugby star Maro Itoje.

Responding to claims that Mr Williamson had confused him for Itoje, Rashford wrote on Twitter: “Accent could have been a giveaway.”

He was commenting on a report in London’s Evening Standard that Mr Williamson has never had direct communication with Manchester United forward Rashford.

In an interview with the newspaper, Mr Williamson said he met Rashford “over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off”.

Gavin Williamson accused of mixing up Marcus Rashford with black rugby player Maro Itoje

Image: Gavin Williamson was reported to have actually spoken to rugby star Maro Itoje

But the newspaper article added: “Later Williamson’s team tell me he actually met the rugby player Maro Itoje, who campaigned to bridge the digital divide, not Rashford.

“Rashford’s spokesperson confirms that he has never had any direct communication with Williamson, although the minister did have a call with Itjoe about equal access to education during the pandemic.”

During the COVID crisis, Itoje has campaigned for laptops to be given to all disadvantaged children in the UK.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to Mr Williamson for having done a “heroic job” during the “very difficult circumstances” of the COVID pandemic, when asked in the House of Commons whether the education secretary was “up to the job”.

It comes amid speculation Mr Williamson could lose his job as part of a reshuffle of Mr Johnson’s cabinet.

A spokesperson for Rashford also confirmed to Sky News that the footballer and Mr Williamson have never met.

They also said that Rashford, who is a high-profile campaigner on food poverty issues, had written two letters to Mr Williamson since September last year, of which only the first received a response from the education secretary.

The spokesperson said that reply, received after five or six weeks, was a “cold response” and constituted a “copy and paste of a Wikipedia page of relief efforts the Conservative Party have put in place since coming into power”.

Last year, now-disgraced health secretary Matt Hancock had to explain why he accidentally called Rashford “Daniel” while praising the footballer for leading a campaign to extend free school meals during a Sky News interview.

Rashford’s spokesperson added: “Marcus’s consistent ask to those in power has been collaboration.

“More often than not this ask is rebuffed. Maro and Marcus are two incredibly successful young black men, but there is little more they have in common.

“Whether it’s Daniel Rashford or a Maro Itoje reference, the message remains the same. Put our children first.”

Gavin Williamson accused of mixing up Marcus Rashford with black rugby player Maro Itoje

Image: Rashford was the target of abuse after the Euro 2020 final

Responding to Mr Williamson’s reported mix-up of Rashford and Itoje, Labour’s shadow education secratary Kate Green posted on Twitter: “Insulting and shocking! Our country and our children deserve better.”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy told Mr Williamson on Twitter: “You must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable education secretary in the UK’s history.”

And Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Daisy Cooper said the “shocking and embarrassing” incident should be “the final nail in the coffin” for Mr Williamson being a member of the government.

Rashford was among those England footballers to be racially abused on social media following national side’s loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley in July.

Following the defeat, a Conservative MP apologised after suggesting Rashford should have spent more time “perfecting his game” than “playing politics” after he missed a penalty in the final’s shoot-out.

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