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Issues with Lille pitch forces Ireland into a change of plans

The France-Swizerland match left the playing surface in a less than ideal condition.

The Lille pitch was in a bad way after the France-Switzerland game last night.
The Lille pitch was in a bad way after the France-Switzerland game last night.

Paul Fennessy reports from Versailles

IRELAND WILL TRAIN an extra day at their base in Versailles before travelling down to Lille later on Tuesday after the Boys in Green were denied permission to use the playing surface at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve ahead of the match on Wednesday.

The Boys in Green will walk the Lille pitch instead after it was left in less than ideal condition, with the grass appearing heavily cut up in parts, following last night’s France-Switzerland Group A game.

It is not the first time a playing surface has been under scrutiny during this tournament — ahead of the Belgium clash, there was also talk of an inept pitch in Bordeaux, and Martin O’Neill acknowledged that it could be a problem ahead of the game.

Meanwhile, the Irish team trained this morning in their base in Versailles, with games of head tennis and keepie-uppies a feature of the session.

Stoke forward Jon Walters, who is doubtful to feature against the Italians, engaged in some light jogging as he trained on his own.

When asked at today’s press conference, assistant boss Roy Keane said the 32-year-old attacker was “touch and go” to play on Wednesday night.

“He did some (training), you would have seen the first few minutes. He did pick that up when you left so it is very much play it by ear. We’re doing something here tomorrow morning and hopefully he can get involved one way or another — whether it be a little bit of possession or whatever.

It’s still very much touch and go. If you speak to the player then he is improving every day, but the game is coming up quickly.

And how much of a risk would it be as he felt the injury in the first minute of the Sweden game?

You wouldn’t have thought so the way he played. We know the type of player Jon is and if there is any chance he thinks he will get through it then he will have a go. Even if we thought we could get Jon on the pitch for an hour, it would be fantastic.

“Of course you have to look after the player’s welfare. Ultimately, if he crosses that line then we think he’s fit but if he doesn’t feel right, according to the medical staff and the player himself, then it’s highly unlikely he will be involved.  

“The manager will give you more of an update when you speak to him tomorrow but finger’s crossed.”

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Paul Fennessy

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