Manchester United defender Paul Tierney is being backed to become the next Republic of Ireland Under-21 international to force his way into Mick McCarthy's senior team. Tierney wins his fourth Republic Under-21 cap in tomorrow's European Championship qualifier against Russia. But Under 21 boss Don Givens feels it is only a matter of time before he loses the left-sided defender to McCarthy.

"If his progress keeps going then Paul won't be too far away," said Givens. "Certainly if he makes the breakthrough at club level it will give his confidence an extra boost. In the short time he has been involved with us he looks an excellent player who will go through at some point. Obviously left-sided players are few and far between, and he is a good defender, he is a good passer and is very comfortable on the ball."

Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson has already included Tierney in his Champions League squads this season, marking his progress at club level. While on the international front he seems the ideal long-term replacement for Leeds' Ian Harte.

"He is a good footballer and a good pro. Obviously he has been brought up at Manchester United in the right way and he just looks like an excellent footballer."

Givens makes two changes to the team who beat Finland 1-0 in last month's friendly as he gets Ireland's qualifying campaign under way. Shaun Byrne and Dwayne Mattis drop to the bench and Thomas Butler and John Thompson return.

Ireland Under-21s: Murphy, Thompson, Goodwin (c), C Byrne, Tierney, Butler, Miller, Keane, Houlihan, Burgess, Barrett.

Filed by Sinéad Kissane