World Cup 2014: Danny Welbeck fit to face Italy - Wayne Rooney

By Phil McNultyChief football writer in Rio
Wayne Rooney insists he is ready for the World Cup

Danny Welbeck will be fit for England's opening World Cup game against Italy on Saturday, according to Wayne Rooney.

Welbeck, 23, picked up a thigh injury during training on Tuesday and missed Wednesday's session in the Rio heat.

However, Manchester United striker Rooney moved to allay fears his club-mate would miss the game in Manaus.

"He will be fine," Rooney said of Welbeck, who has scored eight goals in 20 games under England boss Roy Hodgson.

If Welbeck were to be ruled out, it would increase the chances of Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling starting against the Italians.

Sterling had been a serious contender to play against Italy anyway after creating a big impression in training, with Hodgson even contemplating using his pace and drive just behind his Liverpool team-mate Daniel Sturridge and pushing Rooney to the left.

Hodgson said on Tuesday that Sterling was "as fit as a flea" despite only playing for 39 minutes in the past five weeks.

He was suspended for the goalless draw with Honduras in Miami on Saturday having been sent off 15 minutes after coming on as substitute against Ecuador.

"He's as fit as a flea and I'm pretty certain he hasn't forgotten how to play matches either," said Hodgson.

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"Raheem Sterling is very much in the group of players I'm considering.

"If I select him, it won't, in my opinion, be a risk. If I don't select him, it certainly won't be because he has only played 39 minutes. It will be because I prefer someone else."

Hodgson has revealed his players will take malaria tablets before they head to the Amazonian rainforest to face Italy on Saturday - despite fears of possible side-effects.

Hodgson and his squad fly to Manaus on Thursday morning and will start taking the tablets two days before they leave - and for five days afterwards - as a precaution against the illness.

"I've got to go with medical opinion," said Hodgson. "If the doctors are telling me that when we go to Manaus the players must take malaria tablets, whether it has side-effects or not, what can I do?

"The bottom line is better stomach cramps for one player in 10 rather than have someone contract malaria."

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