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Hodgson: Rooney is still key for England

The Three Lions boss extolled the importance of the striker to his country and hinted that he will play in his favored attacking role against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.

England coach Roy Hodgson insists Wayne Rooney remains a key figure for his country ahead of Wednesday's friendly with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

Despite reclaiming the Premier League with Manchester United, Rooney enjoyed a miserable end to the season that began when he was dropped for the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid in March.

Having asked to leave the club for the second time in three years, the 27-year-old was then benched for the final two league matches of Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure and has not completed 90 minutes in almost two months.

Hodgson, however, retains faith in the forward and says his hunger to succeed has never been in doubt when he has joined up with the Three Lions on international duty.

"I know where I think it's best for him to play, and I think there are several candidates to play alongside him," Hodgson told reporters. "I think I have it fairly clear in my mind where I want to see him play. I can talk about Wayne as he is when he joins up with me, and how he behaves in our get-togethers, and I find his desire as strong, if not stronger, than when we first met.

"I have nothing but the greatest faith in him, but good players can have bad games and bad players can have good games. It's not an exact science. My faith has never wavered."

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