Rooney eager to play and score for England again

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WATFORD, England, Oct 11 (Reuters) England's Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia cannot come soon enough for Wayne Rooney, who is hoping to play in his first international for almost seven months on Saturday.

The Manchester United striker, who turns 22 in two weeks' time, made the last of his 38 England appearances in their dismal 3-0 qualifying win over Andorra in Barcelona in March and, having missed the last five internationals, is eager to make up for lost time.

He is also desperate to start scoring for his country again and believes the Group E game against Estonia and then next Wednesday's much tougher encounter against Russia offer him the perfect chance to kick-start his international career, which he admits, has faltered recently.

''It started well, but it hasn't really been on track for the last year or two,'' he told repoters at the England squad's headquarters north of London.

''It's frustrating. I want to get back playing well for my country again, and its not through lack of effort it hasn't happened. Now I'm determined to put it right and start scoring again.'' DRIED UP Since becoming England's youngest-ever senior player at the age of 17 years and 111 days in February 2003 and England's youngest scorer exactly 200 days later, his international goals have dried up over the last three seasons.

His last competitive goals came on June 21, 2004 when he scored twice in a 4-2 England victory over Croatia in a Euro 2004 group game.

Those goals took his tally to nine in 16 matches -- but in the 22 matches he has played for England since then he has scored just three times, all in friendlies. His last England goal was nearly a year ago when he scored in a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

Although frustrated at having to miss the qualifying wins over Israel and Russia last month, he was delighted the team did so well without him while he was recovering from a broken metatarsal suffered on the opening day of the season.

''I was delighted. I'm an England fan as well and if I'm not playing I want them to play as well as they can and get the best result.'' He would be even more delighted to be playing on Saturday, ideally alongside Michael Owen, but he also says that if Emile Heskey had been fit, he might not now be in with a chance of reclaiming his place.

Heskey played excellently on his return to the England team after a three-year absence, but then also suffered a metatarsal injury which has ruled him out of the next two games.

''I'm happy playing alongside Michael because I know he's always going to be running in behind. He's a great player and he's fairly easy to play with.

''But Emile was brilliant in the games and I'm sure if he was fit then the manager would have had a difficult decision to make as to who he plays up front. If I play then I will have to play well to keep my place.'' Reuters PDS GC2108

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