British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he had met England footballer Marcus Rashford online when he had in fact met rugby player Maro Itoje, it has been reported.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, the minister said he believed he had met Mr Rashford, who forced the British government into a U-turn on free school meals provision during the pandemic, on Zoom.

But his advisers later told the newspaper that he had actually met Mr Itoje, instead.

Asked by the Standard whether he had met Mr Rashford, the Cabinet minister had told the paper: "We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off. I didn't want to be the one that was holding him back from his training."

Mr Rashford laughed off Mr Williamson's gaffe as he tweeted: "Accent could have been a giveaway."

Mr Itoje also joked over the mix-up, saying on Twitter: "Due to recent speculation I thought it was necessary to confirm that I am not Marcus Rashford... And whilst we are here my name is not Mario either!! Just a simple Maro Itoje will do... Much love, Marcu... I mean Maro Itoje."

In a statement, Mr Williamson said he made a "genuine mistake" after saying he had met footballer Marcus Rashford online when he had instead talked to rugby player Maro Itoje.

Gavin Williamson said: "Towards the end of a wide-ranging interview in which I talked about both the laptops and school meals campaigns, I conflated the issues and made a genuine mistake.

"We corrected this with the journalist before publication of the story.

"I have huge respect for both Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje, who run effective and inspiring campaigns."

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy wrote on Twitter: "This is appalling.

"Gavin Williamson what was it about Maro Itoje that made you mistake him for Marcus Rashford?

"You must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable Education Secretary in the UK's history."