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The England star came in for criticism following his display against Italy on Saturday but his former Manchester United team-mate has leapt to his defence

Paul Scholes has called on Wayne Rooney to “step up” at the World Cup but insists the striker should not be criticised for his performance in England's defeat against Italy.

The 28-year-old set up Daniel Sturridge's equaliser with a pin-point cross following Claudio Marchisio's opener but Roy Hodgson's men slumped to a 2-1 defeat after Mario Balotelli struck in the second half.

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Scholes believes Hodgson made an error in playing the Manchester United forward on the flank, rather than in a central role, and feels other nations utilise their players more effectively.

“Wayne Rooney for England – this is his tournament to step up," Scholes told Paddy Power.

“The disappointing thing was not the way Wayne Rooney played but where he was played. I've previously said the best position for Wayne is centre forward.

“If you think about the contenders at the World Cup and goalscorers – Holland play RVP (Robin van Persie) in his best position. Brazil play Neymar where he wants to play. Argentina with Messi, Portugal with Ronaldo (are the same).

“I don't blame Wayne one little bit but he was played in three different positions. He's without a doubt England's best goalscorer, his record in qualifying showed that. But he was played on the left, played on the right and then in the centre.

“Where's the confidence in Wayne to say: 'You're our main player. You're our centre forward.' If he plays there, he scores goals.'”

However, Scholes believes Rooney will happily play wherever he is asked by Hodgson, even if it is not his favoured position.

"He's not a moaner or a sulker but it was glaringly obvious there was a massive problem down that left-hand side against Italy. Candreva in particular was stunning and (Matteo) Darmian really hurt England," said Scholes.

England face Uruguay, who lost 3-1 to Costa Rica in their opening group fixture, in Sao Paolo on Thursday.