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wilson facing months on the sidelines

MARC WILSON is facing a battle to get back to full fitness in time for Ireland's next World Cup qualifiers, against Sweden and Austria in March.

The defender suffered a broken leg while in action for Stoke City in their 0-0 draw with Sunderland on Saturday, the injury later confirmed by both the player and his manager.

"Marc will be out for a while, but we are not sure at this stage for how long," said Stoke boss Tony Pulis after the draw, which was watched by Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

Wilson will be out for at least four months but his spell on the sidelines could be even longer depending on the progress of his rehab. So he will definitely miss next month's friendly at home to Greece and is also likely to sit out the February international against Poland, which is a warm up for the March double header against Sweden and Austria in the World Cup qualifiers.

The injury is a case of very bad timing for Wilson, who had only last month won a place in the starting XI for Ireland, impressing at left back in the 4-1 win over the Faroe Islands, a game in which Wilson scored his first international goal.

Wilson's injury should see Wolves man Stephen Ward re-establish himself at left back in the Greek friendly as the Portmarnock man has been in good form for his club in recent weeks.

Trapattoni made one of his scouting trips to England to take in the Stoke-Sunderland game, his second weekend in a row to attend a Premier League game, but it was a quiet weekend for his players in England's top flight with just 10 Irish players starting in the Premier League last weekend.

Wes Hoolahan put in another very impressive display for Norwich City in their draw with Aston Villa and the former Shelbourne man is making a strong case to Trapattoni for inclusion in the squad for the friendly with Greece -- Trapattoni names his squad on Wednesday.

The Championship and the SPL was of more relevance from an Irish point of view with Ireland men Simon Cox (Nottingham Forest), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace) and Joe Mason (Cardiff City) all on target in the Championship.

Cox scored his fourth goal of the season for Forest in their 4-1 win at Barnsley, a win which moves the side up to seventh in the Championship table and the Ireland international is determined to maintain that for a promotion challenge

"We are building a team that hopes to be able to challenge. We have to be better than last season, that is the first step. But at the minute we look as though we are achieving that," Cox said.

"Only time will tell what the end result will be. We will find out in May. But for now, the challenge is to build a team, to assemble a squad that can do the same job week in, week out. We are starting to show that consistency now.

"But you can only keep the run going if everyone -- and I mean everyone in the squad, not just the starting 11 -- focuses on the main goal. We all have to stay focussed.

"There is a good mood around the place. We are very relaxed. That comes from the top, we are not under any pressure to prove we are a good team. That comes from the manager and the staff, who tell us all the time to go out and just enjoy our football. That is what we are doing at the minute," added Cox.