Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny says he won't make wholesale changes to his team with next year’s European Championship qualification campaign in mind.
The Boys in Green fell to a disappointing defeat at home to Norway on Thursday evening, but speculation that Kenny will chop and change for tomorrow’s friendly against Malta, a side ranked 168th in the world, has been ruled out by the boss.
With the daunting visit of France to kick off the Euros qualifying campaign in March, and a squad still getting used to international football, the 51-year-old stressed the importance for continuity within the starting team.
"There will be some changes, but not wholesale changes," he told RTÉ Sport.
"We are trying to build a squad for the European Championship campaign, particularly for March. The element of competition now is important.
"You can never be sure who is available in March through injuries. I think we have increased the level of competition in all areas of the park, which is important."
On Thursday night, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson became the latest player to be capped under Kenny as a period of personnel transition continues.
Lauded for giving youth a chance, Kenny is aware that there is a fine line at top-level football.
"We have introduced a lot of new players over the last two years," he said.
"That’s not to say we won’t do that again, if players deserve it, but we are trying a squad we need for March. We have had radical enough change and we need a level of continuity to some degree."
Reflecting on the 2-1 defeat to Norway, Kenny accepted the first-half showing was below par, but suggested that the tactical approach from the visitors played a vital part, with Ireland looking rather toothless in attack.
"They paid us an awful lot of respect in retreating in a low to mid-block when we were in possession," he said, adding it was a real learning curve for the strike partnership of Michael Obafemi and Callum Robinson in impacting the game.
While much was made of Ireland’s limited opportunities to score, it is at the other end where Kenny is seeking improvement, with two defensive lapses costing the team dearly at the Aviva Stadium.
Keeping clean sheets and cutting out individual mistakes is a priority if Ireland are to make any impression in their challenging European Championships qualifying group.
"We need to get back to that culture," Kenny added. "That’s an area we have to improve on in recent performances."
We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
Watch Malta v the Republic of Ireland live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Sunday from 6.30pm and follow a live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and RTÉ News app