Wales have called up Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn for their World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.
Chester product Woodburn also qualifies to play for England, but his call-up to Chris Coleman’s 23-man party for the March 24 clash in Dublin has ended speculation about his international future.
Woodburn became the youngest scorer in Liverpool history – at the age of 17 years and 45 days – when he was on target in the 2-0 EFL Cup victory over Leeds in November.
The 17-year-old forward has yet to start a Premier League game for the Reds, but he has become a regular member of Jurgen Klopp’s senior squad in recent weeks and has already made seven first-team appearances.
Woodburn has been in the Wales set-up since the age of 13 and been capped at Under-17 and Under-19 level.
Wales manager Chris Coleman said: “He has done good things at Liverpool and everyone has been getting excited since he burst on the scene.
“But we’ve been looking at him since he was 13 and we know all about him.
“He’s there on merit and we’re looking forward to having him on board.”
Asked if Woodburrn had been selected to ward off potential interest from England, Coleman said: “There’s no need to do that.
“It makes me laugh when people say we’ve got to get him in.
“If I thought it was too early for him I wouldn’t put him in because this is a big game for us.
“There’s no knee-jerk reaction to cap him.
“He’s training with international players every day at Liverpool and technically he’s very good, he’s performing for one of the biggest clubs in football.
“He’s on the periphery of the squad and he won’t be daunted by coming with us.
“But I see him as a Welsh international and he’s good enough to be there.
“If Ben wanted to play for England there’s absolutely nothing we could do about that.
“But we see him as an international player for Wales.”
Coleman insists Bale will be ready
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale is set to make his 21st successive competitive international appearance, having not missed a qualifier or tournament game since October 2013.
Bale had ankle surgery in November and has just completed a two-match domestic ban for being sent off against Las Palmas.
The 27-year-old has just played five matches since the end of November, but Coleman said his star player is ready for Dublin.
“I went to see him three weeks ago, he’s fit and in good form,” Coleman said.
“In fairness to Real Madrid they’ve been fantastic to work with.
“But it probably suits me if he doesn’t play (against Athletic Bilbao) on Saturday.”
The Republic lead the way in Group D with a two-point lead over Serbia and a four-point advantage over third-placed Wales.
Coleman on Republic of Ireland clash
But Coleman denied the Dublin game would decide Wales’ World Cup ambitions.
He said: “This will be the halfway stage and we’ve learned from the last campaign that we still need to be in touching distance at this point.
“People will say it’s do or die, but I don’t see it like that.
“The pressure is on for all the right reasons, but we can’t control how the game is billed by everyone else.”
Paul Dummett (heel), Simon Church (hip) and Emyr Huws (hamstring) are all absent, as Ben Davies, Jazz Richards and Joe Walsh return to the squad.