England should use Euro 2016 to develop players for World Cup - Rio Ferdinand
England should use Euro 2016 as a "development tournament" to give their young players experience ahead of the next World Cup, says Rio Ferdinand.
The ex-captain also thinks it is wrong to set expectations of how far Roy Hodgson's squad should go in France.
"Hopefully these young players will grow and by the time the next tournament comes around they will be ready," said the former defender.
Ferdinand, 37, added he thinks Wayne Rooney should start in Hodgson's team.
England have been drawn alongside Wales, Russia and Slovakia in the group stage of the tournament, which starts on 10 June.
'England need signs of progression'
His side bounced back from their performance in Brazil by winning all 10 of their qualifying matches for Euro 2016.
They also earned a confidence-boosting win against world champions Germany in March, putting them among the favourites to win this summer's tournament with many bookmakers.
But former Manchester United captain Ferdinand believes it should be used as a stepping stone to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"I would say this tournament should be left to be a development tournament," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.
"We should be looking at this to prepare ourselves for the next World Cup because we have got young players who are inexperienced. Gain experience here and then relieve the pressure.
"Putting stipulations and expectations on how far England can go is wrong.
"We've always had expectation going in, which is understandable, but more importantly what happens when we're coming out of the tournament?
"We've never had a position where we've come out of tournament in a position of strength - we've come out weaker.
"After this tournament I would love to come out and say our players have grown in experience and stature, individually and collectively, and we're coming out with hope for the next tournament because we've seen signs of progression. We've not done that in recent tournaments."
'Rooney will play important part'
Manchester United captain Rooney's place in the side has been the subject of some debate, with Tottenham striker Harry Kane and Leicester forward Jamie Vardy pushing for starting spots.
Kane, 22, and Vardy, 29, lead the Premier League scoring charts with 49 top-flight goals between them this season.
Both players strengthened their claims by scoring in England's impressive 3-2 win at world champions Germany in March - a game Rooney missed through injury.
"Rooney has to be on the flight," said Ferdinand, who retired in 2015.
"We've got a very young squad and that squad in this tournament - on and off the pitch - will need to look at someone who has got the experience and look for some comfort at times.
"In a tournament environment experience is key. Whether Wayne Rooney plays or not is up for debate because you've got Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane.
"I'd play a back four, a diamond in midfield with Wayne Rooney at the top, and Vardy and Kane up front.
"But there's no doubt in my mind Wayne Rooney will play an important part for England at some stage of the tournament."
'England's defence is a cause for concern'
England only conceded three goals in a Euro 2016 qualifying group containing Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.
But they have shown some defensive vulnerability in recent friendly matches against Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
"The defence is the weakest part of this team - it was in the last tournament. It is a cause for concern," said Ferdinand.
"In the last tournament that was our undoing, the defence wasn't good enough.
"You could say from a defensive point of view was the shape of the team good enough? Was it protected enough? If that was the weakest part of the team then maybe you've got to prepare to defend that before the ball gets in that area."