Marco Tardelli is confident Richard Dunne could play against both Sweden and Austria if required as he prepares to return to competitive international football. “Focus on the match, focus on Ibrahimovic, it’s okay. But when he decides to do something, it’s impossible to control him.” Trapattoni will finalise his blueprint on Thursday, and several questions remain unanswered. Left-back Marc Wilson trained for the first time with his team-mates on Wednesday morning after shaking off an ankle problem, although it remains to be seen whether he is fit enough to start against the Swedes with Ciaran Clark having been mentioned in dispatches as a possible replacement. Perhaps even more uncertain is who will line up on the left side of midfield with usual incumbent Aiden McGeady ruled out by injury. Striker Jon Walters is a candidate for the wide right berth and in the circumstances, it seems unlikely that fellow frontman Simon Cox would get the nod on the left. Wigan winger James McClean is a natural replacement for McGeady, but Anthony Pilkington’s versatility means he too could come into consideration. The Norwich midfielder trained in the gym on Wednesday as he continued to manage a long-standing knee problem, but asked if it was beyond the realms of possibility that he could be handed a debut on Friday night, Tardelli did not rule it out. He said: “No, many players have played for the first time in an important match. He’s a professional player and he could play for the first time.” The 33-year-old central defender managed 25 minutes for his country in the 4-0 friendly defeat of Georgia in June, his only football at the end of a season which was decimated by injury. He has not played a competitive game for Ireland since the 2-0 defeat by Italy at the Euro 2012 finals, but having demonstrated his return to fitness at new club QPR, he is ready to return to pull on the green jersey once again. Press Association Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has already indicated Dunne could start Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against the Swedes at the Aviva Stadium, and now his assistant Tardelli has revealed he believes the former Manchester City powerhouse could repeat the feat in Vienna four days later if he was needed. Tardelli said: “I think so, but we have many options in this squad. If Richard is fit, I think he can play two matches. “Richard is very important for us because he’s a good player. He is very strong physically and against [Sweden striker Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, you need physically strong players.” Much of the talk around the Ireland camp this week has been of Paris St-Germain striker Ibrahimovic and his potential to wreck Ireland’s hopes. Indeed, Tardelli admitted he was “scared” of a player who has proved capable in the past of effectively winning matches on his own. However, Trapattoni’s number two insists there will be no special strategy to deal with Ibrahimovic, simply because it is impossible to predict the unpredictable. Asked if there was a plan, Tardelli said with a smile: “Yes – the back four must control him always because he is their best player. “There isn’t a special plan because he is a very strong player. It’s like trying to prepare something for [Cristiano] Ronaldo – Ronaldo decides what he wants to do.
Mark Wood can provide the X Factor England need to beat South Africa in the third Test in Port Elizabeth, says assistant coach Paul Collingwood.James Anderson has been ruled out with a broken rib and Jofra Archer missed the second Test with an elbow injury.That leaves a potentially sizeable hole in the England attack with the series poised at 1-1.“Mark’s ready to come in and do a job,” said Collingwood.“You need those types of bowlers, especially on surfaces at Port Elizabeth where you might need a touch of X Factor; a 90mph-plus bowler that can get the batsmen jumping around.“Mark’s certainly the kind of guy who can do that, along with Jofra.”Wood, 30, has not played Test cricket for England since February 2019, when he produced career-best figures of 5-41 to clinch a 232-run victory against West Indies in St Lucia.He went on to play an integral part in England’s World Cup victory, but has not bowled in a competitive match since picking up a side strain in the final.Collingwood acknowledges the lack of match practice is far from ideal, but says he has seen enough from his former Durham team-mate in the nets to believe he is ready to re-enter the Test arena.“Ideally, you would like to have him playing cricket somewhere but with the international schedule the way it is that’s just not a viable option,” he said.“So from a coach’s point of view you have got to make sure they have got the overs under their belt and their workloads up. He looks really good in the nets.”England will recall at least one, possibly two, bowlers for Thursday’s third Test with Wood, Archer, Chris Woakes and Craig Overton all in contention, depending on whether they retain spinner Dom Bess in the starting XI.They will return to a team which bowled out South Africa twice to level the series in their last outing in Cape Town.“Cape Town was exceptional,” said Collingwood. “I thought our first-innings bowling performance was one of the best I have seen for many years and that’s kind of the blueprint for the future with the Kookaburra ball.”England will be led by Joe Root in the third Test of four, after the captain recovered from illness which saw him miss training earlier in the week.“It’s good to see him back,” added Collingwood. “He’s got a smile on his face and we’ve just got to make sure he doesn’t pass it on to anyone else.“He shouldn’t now, so all good on that front.”(BBC Sport)