London - England manager Roy Hodgson has said it would take an "awful lot" for Wayne Rooney to be left out of his squad for this year's European Championships.
But Hodgson insisted England's record goalscorer, who has been sidelined since mid-February with knee ligament damage, would not receive special treatment and instead had to first regain fitness and form.
The 30-year-old Manchester United striker's England place is under scrutiny as rarely before.
Promising performances by the likes of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane during last month's friendly internationals against Germany and the Netherlands have led to speculation that Hodgson could do without Rooney when Euro 2016 gets underway in France in June.
Hodgson has faced accusations he is excessively cautious, and were Rooney to come straight back into the team at the first opportunity this would be seen by some England fans as a retrograde step.
"I think I've said now on several occasions that this is a 23-man squad: three goalkeepers and 20 outfield players," Hodgson said Saturday.
"It would take a lot before I say to Wayne Rooney after his captaincy over two years, after 19 games and two defeats, that because I am being pushed to make a brave, bold decision and show what a fantastic, forward-thinking and adventurous coach I am, 'I am leaving you out the team'. It would take an awful lot.
"But, of course, Wayne Rooney has got to get fit, got to get playing and when Wayne Rooney gets in the squad he has got to get in front of other players again because he would not expect me to just give him a position in the team on sentiment or on his past record or the fact that he's the captain of the team."
Hodgson added: "He will expect me to give him a position in the team because he shows he is better than the others.
"With Jamie Vardy scoring goals and doing well, with Harry Kane scoring goals and doing well, with (Daniel) Sturridge and (Danny) Welbeck now fit again, with (Raheem) Sterling to come back into the team, the competition is a lot fiercer than it was even two years ago."
Hodgson made Rooney his England captain, with Gary Cahill and James Milner taking over against the Germans and Dutch respectively.
Rooney has impressed Hodgson, who has great respect for his record both as a skipper and a striker that has seen the former Everton forward score 51 goals in 109 international appearances.
"What he is he is the captain of our team and has been for the last two years and has done extremely well," Hodgson said.
"Most teams, if they are any good as teams, they don't throw their captain out the first time a young player comes on the team and scores a goal, unless the captain for some reason is playing so badly or doing so badly there is a clear reason for doing so.
"Rooney has never given us any reasons to do that and I expect him to get back to fitness.
"I expect him to start playing well again and I expect him to be on the plane to France, and then I expect him to accept like all the other players in the squad that he will have to play well enough to get into the team."