Givens hoping Republic will profit from Uefa's new Under-21 format

European football's governing body are eager to make the competition more high profile, with their first step to switch the tournament away from World Cup and senior European Championship years.

After next summer's Under-21 finals, the subsequent event will be in 2007, and then every two years beyond that, ensuring the spotlight will be firmly on this particular age group in any given year rather than the senior competitions.

Qualifying for the 2007 tournament will start in a year's time and follow set dates on the international calendar, but given the close proximity of the finals, the groups will probably comprise no more than three teams.

Of greater significance, though, is that unlike at present where the senior team group stage qualifying draws for the World Cup and European Championships dictate which nations the Under-21s will face, it is almost certain they will now have their own draw. The format is due to be ratified at the next executive committee meeting of Uefa in Rome later this month.

The changes ensure that Givens has a quick opportunity to rectify the mistakes made during the current qualifying campaign, the latest setback being a 2-1 defeat by France at Turners Cross in Cork on Tuesday night.

The Republic are now winless in seven matches stretching back a year, and have taken just one point from their last five games.

The French handed Ireland a footballing lesson, showing Givens the way forward. "I will now start looking ahead towards the next campaign," he said. "Things are changing at this level and we have to be prepared, particularly after being set a benchmark by France.

"They were physically and technically better than us. We never got on the ball enough to cause them problems, while with long balls and aerial challenges, they were coming out on top when I expected us to do that. They played at a level we have to be aiming for, and that is what I will be looking for with the next group of players coming through.

"We will lose a few, as you do at the end of any Under-21 qualifying competition, the likes of Wayne Henderson, Paddy McCarthy, Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy.

"But I like to think there is a good crop coming through in Willo Flood, Joey O'Brien and Paul McShane, while there will be a few more introduced for our final two matches."

Ireland will hope to end their winless streak when they face Cyprus in Larnaca on 7 October, a team they beat 3-0 last September with what proved to be their last victory in the group.

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