England v Republic of Ireland: Robbie Keane hopeful of healthy rivalry

The sides meet for the first time since 1995

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The Independent Football

Robbie Keane is hoping the Republic of Ireland and England can enjoy a healthy rivalry for years to come as they prepare to resume hostilities.

The two sides will go head-to-head for the first time since 1995 at Wembley tonight in a fixture which will rekindle memories of tight encounters in the past.

Unfortunately, the most recent are of the game 18 years ago which was abandoned with just 27 minutes played after England fans rioted at Lansdowne Road.

Keane was in the stands as a 14-year-old that night, and he is desperate for the two nations to compete on a regular basis once again.

He said: "Believe it or not, the countries certainly do get on well. Whatever happened years and years ago, that's hopefully in past.

"Me personally, I think it should have happened a good few years ago, but listen, it hasn't so there's no point talking about it.

"But hopefully after this now, it can be good and we can certainly have a rivalry for a good few years to come, play against each other many times, and hopefully it's all done in a good way.

"Hopefully this will be the start of an even bigger rivalry where we can play on a regular basis if everything goes as well as everyone wants it to go. Hopefully it will be a good, friendly rivalry."

Skipper Keane, who will win his 124th cap tonight, only arrived in London yesterday morning after playing in LA Galaxy's 4-0 victory over Seattle Sounders on Sunday night, but he did so having confirmed his return from an ankle injury in style with his first MLS hat-trick.

He said: "As a striker, you are judged on scoring goals, but for me, it was just nice to be back playing, to be honest with you.

"It has been a frustrating four weeks for me with being on and off, so just to be back in these last few weeks - I have played three games in two weeks, so I feel fairly sharp.

"It's always nice to be scoring goals. If you are going into games without scoring, it's in the back of your mind a little bit, so coming off a hat-trick is obviously good for my confidence."

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni will hope that rich vein of form extends into next Friday's World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands, by far the most important of the four games Ireland will play in the next fortnight despite their eagerness to face England once again.

Keane said: "It's a big game for us because of the rivalry and the bragging rights between a lot of players. A lot of players are friendly with each other.

"But we have got a bigger game against the Faroes on June 7, so we have to be certainly in the back of our minds looking towards that."