McCarthy looks to Kilbane to break ice

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Kevin Kilbane, West Bromwich Albion's new pounds 1m winger, is set for a World Cup debut with the Republic of Ireland as Mick McCarthy's team try to snatch second place in Group Eight and a back-door opportunity to reach the finals in France next summer.

McCarthy, Ireland's manager, will not name his team to face Iceland - the first of two vital qualifying matches in five days - until just before kick-off today in Reykjavik. But with three key men out through injuries, he is ready to call for the quick and mobile Kilbane, whose only previous international experience comprises three caps at Under-21 level.

"Would I throw him in? Yes, I would. He's always been in this squad and he's got a chance of playing," said McCarthy, who has lost the injured Ray Houghton, Keith O'Neill and Niall Quinn from his original squad for the two games.

McCarthy knows only a win today is good enough, with the other second- place challengers Lithuania and Macedonia meeting in Vilnius directly after the Iceland game finishes.

Macedonia are two points ahead of the Irish having played one game more, and Lithuania - whom the Republic visit on Wednesday - trail McCarthy's men only on goal difference.

Keith Rowland, the West Ham midfielder or wing-back, has been added to the Northern Ireland squad for their World Cup Group Nine qualifier against Albania in Zurich on Wednesday, after Sheffield Wednesday's Ian Nolan withdrew with a knee injury.

Jim Magilton has also pulled out of the Northern Ireland squad. The midfielder, who is set to join Sheffield Wednesday from Southampton, damaged his ankle at Chelsea last weekend. Ipswich's Danny Sonner has been called up to replace him, while Newcastle's Aaron Hughes has been drafted in to replace the Bolton centre-half Gerry Taggart.