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O'Neill confident Milner can perform for England

Martin O'Neill is confident James Milner will not let England down if the Aston Villa player is called upon to fill the void on the right created by David Beckham's Achilles injury.

Milner has operated with great success in a central midfield role in recent months for Villa and played an important part in their push for a Champions League spot.

He is expected to occupy that position alongside Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov in tonight's Barclays Premier League clash at Wigan.

But O'Neill is quick to remind people that Milner was equally as effective on the right flank before the return to fitness of Stewart Downing allowed him to switch inside.

O'Neill said: "James can play out there and probably that has been lost a bit since he moved into the middle.

"But he is an all-purpose player and, at this stage, James would have as good a chance as anyone of being on the plane outside of those absolutely nailed on to go to the World Cup.

"If he had to start on the right, he wouldn't let England down. Not at all. No problem."

O'Neill also feels Ashley Young and Downing should not give up hope of being part of Fabio Capello's plans this summer.

He said: "Beckham is not going now to the World Cup and that should allow a place for people to still climb on that plane to the World Cup and I include the likes of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young.

"I would think Stewart and Ashley shouldn't give up. They should continue to perform for Villa which is the only way they can get noticed and hope that is enough.

"Ashley has not been in recent squads and that will be a disappointment to him but he doesn't show it. He doesn't spend time thinking about it.

"His club form is bringing him to the attention of the England manager and I hope will continue to flourish."

O'Neill admits it is hard to know why Wigan's fortunes fluctuate so greatly given the fact they have defeated Villa, Chelsea and, most recently, Liverpool this season.

He said: "It has been a strange season for them. They beat us on the opening day of the season and within a few weeks were losing heavily to Manchester United at home and Tottenham away.

"But they have the ability, as they proved against Liverpool, that they can definitely play.

"It must be a source of annoyance to the manager that they can produce such wonderful football one week and not reproduce the following week."

Villa's leading scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor could return to the starting line-up at Wigan.

Agbonlahor missed the FA Cup quarter-final win at Reading through illness eight days ago and was only named amongst the substitutes for the weekend goalless draw at Stoke.

But the 14-goal player is now back to full fitness and may dislodge either John Carew or former Wigan striker Emile Heskey as Villa look to maintain their 2010 unbeaten league record.

Dr Nicola Brewer explains how the British High Commission in South Africa is preparing for the 2010 World Cup:

As part of preparations for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, staff at the British High Commission in Pretoria ran a consular emergency planning exercise with staff from the FCO's Crisis Response Centre in London: