England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce has backed Ryan Shawcross to make the right impact should he win his first senior cap against Egypt.
The Stoke defender was the surprise name in Fabio Capello's squad for the pre-World Cup friendly at Wembley but Pearce, who has worked with Shawcross at under-21 level, believes the 22-year-old has earned his place.
The timing of Shawcross' call-up has been criticised in some quarters, coming as it did only hours after he was sent off for a tackle that broke the leg of Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, but Pearce said: "I think what happened at the weekend is irrelevant.
"He's in there on merit because the manager's seen him and thinks he's done very well over the season."
He added: "I think he's a vastly improving player and I think there's a lot of talented young central defenders. Ryan's put together a good run of form for his club and he won't have a problem."
While Shawcross has made the step up from the under-21s, Micah Richards has once again failed to earn a recall to the senior squad.
The Manchester City defender looked a near certainty for the right-back spot at the World Cup after he burst on to the scene in 2006 but he has been consistently overlooked by Capello.
Pearce, though, believes it is not too late for Richards to win a place on the plane to South Africa.
"He needs a continuing run of form at Manchester City, and good form," said Pearce. "I think he's got 12 international caps at senior level; he's a very experienced player for such a young man, and we can't lose track of the fact he is still a very young man.
"I don't think Micah's the complete article yet, I think there's still more to come from him, and what we've seen already is someone who's good enough to win a dozen international senior caps. The door's open for him."
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