England v Republic of Ireland: Key battles


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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson faces the latest test of his international management skills tomorrow when England take on the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

Here, Press Association Sport's Paul Hirst looks at the key battles that could decide the outcome of the friendly.

Wayne Rooney v John O'Shea - Of all the players on display tomorrow, Rooney will surely be the one who is most eager to make his mark. Rooney has just come through his most difficult season at Manchester United, with his fitness, form and relationship with former manager Sir Alex Ferguson all coming under scrutiny. The 27-year-old has not started a game in a month and he will be confident of getting the better of his former United team-mate John O'Shea, despite the 87-cap defender's vast experience at international level.

Michael Carrick v James McCarthy - Carrick, on the other hand, has just had his most successful season at United. The midfielder won players' player of the year following an accomplished campaign in which he emerged from Paul Scholes' shadow to show his true worth to the team. He will come up against arguably the brightest talent in the Republic ranks tomorrow, though. McCarthy has enjoyed another fine season at Wigan despite their relegation. His work rate, strength and movement make him a tough player to handle and he has a good eye for a pass as well.

Phil Jagielka v Robbie Keane - With Rio Ferdinand and John Terry now out of the picture, Jagielka knows this week is a perfect opportunity for him to prove that he should be England's first-choice centre-back for next year's World Cup - should the team qualify. But Keane comes in to the match at Wembley having scored a hat-trick at the weekend for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Keane, who will be 33 in July, has had his critics in the Emerald Isle over the last couple of years so he will no doubt be determined to prove them wrong at Wembley which stands just a few miles away from Tottenham where he enjoys iconic status thanks to two successful spells at the club.