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May 20, 2012

Rooney declines chance to rest

Roy Hodgson has revealed Wayne Rooney spurned the chance to rest ahead of Euro 2012, with the striker "adamant" he wanted to play a part in England's warm-up match with Belgium.

Rooney, 26, is suspended for the first two group games, rendering him unavailable for selection until England face Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19.

Hodgson realises the importance of having a fit and firing Rooney ready to hit the ground running after serving his ban, and the new England boss was keen to afford his star striker an additional period of recovery following a gruelling Premier League campaign.

Rooney will miss next Saturday's friendly with Norway in Oslo but the Manchester United forward has made himself available for the Wembley meeting with Belgium on June 2. Despite nursing a "minor injury" in the final few weeks of the domestic season, Rooney says he does not require a lengthy break and will report for duty on May 29.

"Wayne has been playing with a minor injury for the last three or four games, which needed a couple of weeks to clear up," Hodgson said. "He won't be involved in the Norway game and I don't know whether I will select him for Belgium at this stage.

"I offered him a couple more days' rest but he was adamant he wanted to be part of it when we meet up for the Belgium game. The fitness side doesn't bother me. If he needs a bit of topping up we will do that, but his enthusiasm for the task was fantastic."

Meanwhile, Hodgson has spoken of his excitement about working with Rooney's former team-mate Gary Neville, who joined the England coaching team last week. The decision to draft the former right-back into the England ranks has been met with some scepticism, with concern being raised over Neville's tendency to voice forthright views.

However, Hodgson says he has been impressed by what he has seen from his new colleague in his role as a pundit, and insists he has no issue with Neville being outspoken.

"Gary's views and ideas are of great interest to me," he said. "I wanted Ray Lewington alongside me because he's a man I trust and whose coaching ability I have enormous respect for, but I wanted someone like Gary Neville as well - a younger guy with international and tournament experience and someone the players will listen to.

"I have been extremely impressed by the way Gary has handled himself on TV and the fact that he can watch a game of football and he can see what is going on. I spoke to Alex Ferguson, who told me he is a straight and loyal person with good ideas and is not afraid to tell you. I couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic person and I'm looking forward to getting to know him better because I can't say I know him that well at the moment."

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