Bristol City defender Richard Keogh will captain the Republic of Ireland's Under-21 side for the first time tonight in a friendly international against Luxembourg.

The defender, who broke into the Irish squad at the Madeira Tournament in February, will lead out Don Givens' youngsters at the Stade Fr Trausch in Mamer.

Givens has the greatest respect for the 20-year-old centre-back, who has been a regular in the first team at Ashton Gate this term.

'Richard is a solid defender who should react well to the responsibility of leading the side,' he said.

Givens is looking to a new crop of youngsters after the most recent group of players missed out on a place in the UEFA Championships finals after an unfortunate defeat by Belgium last month.

The Irish side's next scheduled UEFA competitive fixture is not due to take place until August next year.

Blackburn's Tony Kane will make his debut at right-back after recently opting to switch from Northern Ireland to the Republic.

Arsenal's Joseph O'Cearuill has also been named in an Irish side for the first time.

The London-born defender, who played in Dennis Bergkamp's testimonial in August, qualifies for Ireland through his Cork-born father Gary, now deceased.

He said: 'This is an opportunity I've been looking forward to. I'm sure my family will all be very proud.'

Givens has thrown down the gauntlet to the players in his squad to earn a long-term place in the side.

The manager said: 'At the moment, we don't have too many more friendly games confirmed before next summer, so it's vital that those who play grab their chance.

'I'm confident that these lads have enough quality to assert themselves in the team and a good performance is what we're seeking from them.'

Irish senior team manager Stephen Staunton will attend the game and Givens feels his presence should give his team more incentive to impress.

Givens said: 'Stephen Staunton has shown that he is happy to put younger players in the senior squad.

'We've seen that with the likes of Paul McShane, Stephen Ireland and Joey O'Brien getting capped at senior level this year.

'This group of players have made it to the under-21 squad but the hardest part is making that final step into the senior team.'