Keane backs Lawrence

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Captain Robbie Keane is backing Liam Lawrence to make his mark as the Republic of Ireland attempt to halt Italy's charge to the World Cup finals.

The 27-year-old Stoke midfielder will make his first competitive appearance for his country against the reigning champions at Croke Park on Saturday with the Irish needing a victory to keep their hopes of automatic qualification alive.

However, Keane is confident the winger will not freeze on his big night, and said: "The good thing about Liam is it's not like he's a young kid who is just coming into it. He has been around for a few years and he has played at the highest level."

He added: "But international level is a little bit different compared to playing for your club.

"He has only been in the squad a few times and played a couple of games, so he is going to be nervous.

"But he has got players around him who can certainly help him. By no means is everything going to go right for Liam or myself for anyone else.

"That means we all have to pull together as a team more than ever."

Lawrence's stunning free-kick against South Africa at Thomond Park last month highlighted his ability on the ball, although manager Giovanni Trapattoni knows that kind of magic is difficult to reproduce repeatedly.

He said: "It's not always Christmas, but Lawrence has great quality.

"It's important we have these players because for example, Italy have (Andrea) Pirlo for free-kicks. Set-pieces, corners and free-kicks, many, many times get results, so they are important."

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Robbie Keane
Stoke City
Premier League
Liam Lawrence

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