Rooney relishing elder statesman role ahead of Wales derby
LENS, France (Reuters) - Wayne Rooney is relishing the pressure of being one of England's more experienced heads as Roy Hodgson's side prepare for their Euro 2016 derby against Wales in Lens on Thursday.
Many of Hodgson's squad are taking their maiden steps at a major tournament and seasoned 30-year-old captain Rooney will be expected to set an example for the youngsters against a vibrant Welsh side who beat Slovakia 2-1 in their Group B opener.
"It's a different pressure now to when I broke into the team," Rooney told reportersmon Wednesday, looking back at his first European Championship in Portugal 12 years ago. "Then I was the youngest player in the squad, today I'm the oldest.
"I'm playing a different role now and it's something I'm enjoying," he added. "I'm enjoying it more now than in 2004."
Hodgson's young side can ill afford a slip up against their neighbours after drawing 1-1 with Russia in their opener.
"We need to have the same mentality as we did for the Russia match," Rooney added. "There are two games left (in the group) and we're preparing for each the same.
"We won't prepare differently because we're playing well."
Rooney was 18 when he was selected by Sven-Goran Eriksson for Euro 2004 and played in England's opening 2-1 defeat by France before scoring twice in their second group match as Switzerland were beaten 3-0.
Hodgson will be hoping for a similar result this time, with his side in need of the points having let slip a 1-0 lead in against the Russiams who scored a 92nd-minute equaliser.
"(Wales) are obviously under less pressure," Hodgson told reporters. "When three teams go through and you win a game you're basically through. They've won one, we haven't, so they're under less pressure."
(Reporting by Ed Dove; Editing by Ken Ferris)