Ireland were given a timely boost ahead of their World Cup playoff against France with the news that Damien Duff played a full ninety minutes for Fulham against Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The mercurial Irish winger was suffering from an Achilles problem that was thought to be bad enough to keep him out of the first leg, but this unexpectedly swift return to fitness means the boys in green will have one of their most experienced and talented players available for the first leg at Croke park on Saturday.

Duff is expected to report to Dublin on Tuesday with the rest of the squad to begin the final preparations for one of the biggest weeks in Irish soccer history.