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'I know some of the recent results haven’t been good, but it is always good to play tougher teams'

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Ireland manager Vera Pauw. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland manager Vera Pauw. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland manager Vera Pauw. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

THE already-daunting task of facing up to World Cup battles against higher-ranked nations will be even stiffer if Tuesday's friendly against Australia sees the Republic of Ireland extend their losing streak to eight games.

But US-based Heather Payne believes that Vera Pauw's side need to learn from their defeats to quality opposition if they are to make a real stab at qualification for the 2023 World Cup and avoid a repeat of the last qualifying campaign, where Ireland finished a disappointing third.

Australia, the visitors to Tallaght Stadium for Tuesday's friendly in what is the first chance for Pauw's side to play in front of a home crowd in for 18 months, are ranked 11th in the world and were semi-finalists at last summer's Olympic games, a stern test for an Ireland side ranked 33rd.

"I think it is a good game to prepare for the upcoming qualifiers, they are both very good teams," Payne says with an eye on next month's testing window in the qualifiers away to group favourites Sweden and at home to Finland.

"Obviously Sweden were second in the Olympics in a penalty shoot-out, so we know they are a super team. And Finland are the second seeds, so we know they are a really good team. Australia are a really good team, so it will be good practice for those games coming up.

"It is always good to play the tougher teams because the upcoming games are going to be tough games and there is no point in playing against a team you are not really going to get anything out of. We are probably going to have set up against Australia as we would set up against Sweden as they are both very good teams. So, it will be good practice. I know some of the recent results haven’t been good, but it is always good to play tougher teams," she added.

"The last campaign was very frustrating, very upsetting. We are just looking to do the best we can against Australia to prepare the best we can for those October qualifiers."

The 21-year-old spent the first few days of last week's training camp in Dublin battling jet lag after the journey from her US base, where Payne lines out for the Florida State Seminoles and is three years into her degree in Dietetics, her university a rare case in US sport where the women's game has all the attention.

"We don’t have a men’s soccer programme in FSU. We are the primary focus when it comes to soccer," she says.

"I am really enjoying it, I'm glad I went over, glad I went to college because once I finish soccer, I have something to fall back on."

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