Manager Roy Hodgson has assured captain Wayne Rooney of a place in the 23-man England squad for Euro 2016 in France, but has refused to guarantee the Manchester United forward a starting berth for the June-July tournament.
With a wealth of attacking options at his disposal, including leading Premier League scorers Harry Kane (24 goals) and Jamie Vardy (22 goals), Hodgson said England’s record scorer Rooney may be dropped from the starting line-up.
“Of course, with the competition that’s coming for the places where he plays, I do understand there’s questions about, well, should he be the one playing or should another? That’s another matter altogether,” Hodgson told British media.
“He merits a place among the 23. I don’t see any reason to omit him if Rooney is 100 per cent and playing matches.
“In a squad of 23, something would have to happen much more than people doubting his form before I said, ‘I’m going to ditch Wayne Rooney now after two years of captaining the team, 20-odd games where he’s been an important part of this group.'”
Hodgson also played down the chances of emerging Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford of making the cut for France, as the manager feels the tournament has come too soon for the 18-year-old.
Rashford has scored seven goals in 13 games since bursting through with a double strike on his debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League in February.
“As far as the first national team is concerned, it would be a very bold decision to put him in. It would mean possibly leaving someone behind who at the moment, in my opinion, has more reason to be called up,” the 68-year-old said.
England face Russia, Slovakia and Wales in Group B of the 24-team tournament that starts on June 10.