Football: McCarthy chooses Houghton

Group Eight: Republic Of Ireland
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Ray Houghton will captain the Republic of Ireland for the first time in today's World Cup qualifier against Romania in Dublin - and his manager is convinced he has made a wide choice.

Mick McCarthy named the 35-year-old Reading player-coach as the stand- in captain for the injured Andy Townsend and said: "He's been doing this kind of job for years without actually wearing the armband.

"It's a nice reward for him after all the service he's given Ireland over the years. His qualities are well known to everybody and I have been exalting his virtues for ages. Ray is a talker on the pitch, always encouraging other players and leading by example."

Houghton will be Ireland's third different captain in consecutive matches. Aston Villa's Steve Staunton, who took over from the suspended Townsend for the 2-1 win in Lithuania last month, has been left out of McCarthy's squad this week.

He is one of 11 Republic players on a yellow card, and McCarthy's dilemma is whether to risk any of the others, who could fall foul of suspension for the first leg of the World Cup play-offs on 29 October.

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