Wayne Rooney's place in the England squad has been widely debated.

Terry Butcher: Wayne Rooney crucial to England's hopes at Euro 2016

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Wayne Rooney has to start at Euro 2016 in the view of Terry Butcher as the former captain believes England's talisman is not only the best player at Roy Hodgson's disposal but also the most influential.

How best to utilise the 30-year-old has been the subject of much debate in recent years, with the player that burst onto the scene as a lung-busting forward now looking to a future in midfield.

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Rooney has played the role impressively for Manchester United towards the end of the season but started as a deep-lying forward against Portugal, with in-form Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane playing wider in Thursday's underwhelming 1-0 win.

The triumvirate's ineffectiveness has led to criticism and fresh questions over where best to play Rooney, but former defender Butcher is in no doubt that the captain has to start the Group B opener against Russia on Saturday.

"You can play him in a variety of positions and I just think he should be in the team," he told Press Association Sport.

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"He is England's talisman, he's England's best player for me, the most experienced player in terms of tournaments.

"He's leading England into a tournament for the first time in his career, which is a lovely feeling.

"I think we'll get the best out of him, wherever we play him - midfield, on the left, behind, further forwards, whatever.

"I just think he has to be in the team because countries look at England and say 'if Rooney's playing, we've got to watch him'.

"If he's not playing, the teams will say 'we've got a good chance now'. It comes down to that for me."

Butcher has been impressed by the way Rooney has grown into the captaincy since succeeding Steven Gerrard after the World Cup.

The chastening experience of Brazil still hurts two years on but this is a squad in transition, with much of the old guard having been replaced by young, unfettered talent.

England's squad is the youngest of the 24 heading to Euro 2016 and Butcher cannot wait to see how they fare in France.

"It think it's an exciting squad," Butcher said, speaking on behalf of Vauxhall, the England Team sponsor.

"There's always something happening whether it is at the back or up front, so I don't think there will be any dull nil-nils.

"I find it exciting, I find the whole way England play, the whole squad is made up with good young players and also some bits of experience dotted everywhere, mainly through the centre of the team.

"You look at Hart, Cahill, Milner, Rooney - they've got some good solid players there.

"There's good combinations within our squad. I think there are more combinations and options available to Roy in this squad for a lot of squads since I've played."

Among those making their first appearance at a major tournament is Eric Dier, who has won seven caps but all in friendlies.

The 22-year-old has flourished this season having been transformed into a defensive midfielder and his ability to play in the backline makes him "England's most important player" in Butcher's opinion.

"I think when England are most vulnerable is when we're attacking and that leaves us a little wide open," he said.

"That's why I say Dier is so key to mop things up in front of that back four, but we know we've got problems at the back.

"We have had problems at the back but I just think cometh the hour, cometh the men.

"When you think about Smalling, Cahill and even Stones are experienced, but you look at players in front of the back four to screen it as well.

"We defend together, attack together and I think England is very much like that."

:: How will you celebrate football this summer? Watch the Vauxhall #GetIN video to see your nations 2016 celebration and get behind the boys, go to

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Wayne Rooney
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