(Reuters) - Liverpool midfielder Ben Woodburn has been named in Wales’ squad for the first time ahead of their World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on March 24.
The 17-year-old Woodburn, who has made seven appearances for the Merseyside club this season, became Liverpool’s youngest scorer when he scored against Leeds United in the League Cup in November.
“He’s there on merit and we’re looking forward to having him on board,” Wales manager Chris Coleman told reporters on Thursday.
“He has done good things at Liverpool and everyone has been getting excited since he burst on the scene ... He won’t be daunted by coming with us.”
Coleman dismissed reports suggesting that he had picked Woodburn, who has represented Wales at youth level since he was 13, with the intention of preventing him from becoming an England player.
“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 said.
“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.”
Wales are currently third in Group D with six points, four behind leaders Republic of Ireland. Only the team that tops their group gains automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The full Welsh squad for the World Cup qualifier:
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessy (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Owain Fon Williams (Inverness).
Defenders: Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), James Chester (Aston Villa), James Collins (West Ham United), Joe Walsh (Milton Keynes Dons), Chris Gunter (Reading), Jazz Richards (Cardiff City), Neil Taylor (Aston Villa), Ashley Williams (Everton).
Midfielders: Joe Allen (Stoke City), David Edwards (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Andy King (Leicester City), Tom Lawrence (Leicester City), Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Shaun MacDonald (Wigan Athletic), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal).
Forwards: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Hal Robson-Kanu (West Bromwich Albion), Tom Bradshaw (Barnsley), Sam Vokes (Burnley), Ben Woodburn (Liverpool).
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones