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Friday 14 December 2018

Wales confident Ampadu won't defect to England

Chelsea midfielder Ethan Ampadu. Photo: Chelsea FC via Getty Images
Chelsea midfielder Ethan Ampadu. Photo: Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

Wales remain convinced that Chelsea midfielder Ethan Ampadu will commit his senior international future to them despite his eligibility for England - as well as Ireland - and reputation as one of the best teenage prospects in the Premier League.

Ampadu, who signed his first professional contract with Chelsea in September and was referenced only last week by Antonio Conte as a player he is considering for the first team, made an encouraging Wales debut on Friday night when he came on as a second-half substitute against France in Paris.

He was born and brought up in Devon and is the son of Dubliner Kwame Ampadu, who played for the Republic of Ireland's U-21s. However, his mother is Welsh and he has been part of their developmental teams since the age of 12.

The 17-year-old (right) is expected to make his full debut against Panama tomorrow in Cardiff and is able to switch allegiance until he plays his first competitive international.

Chris Coleman has described Ampadu and David Brooks, who also made his debut on Friday, as "firmly committed" to Wales and that message has been echoed by Osian Roberts, the Football Association of Wales's technical director.

Roberts was not surprised by how Ampadu, Brooks and Liverpool's Ben Woodburn looked so assured against France.

"We have got some younger players who have been with us for a while behind the scenes in the camps," he said.

Wales will once again be without Gareth Bale, who has not played since September 26 because of a calf problem.

The former Tottenham ace had been stepping up his recovery and a return to action was imminent, but the 28-year-old suffered a fibrillar rupture to the adductor muscle of his left leg last Thursday and could be sidelined for a further six weeks.

It is another blow to Bale's injury-hit Real career, with the Welshman having missed 91 of their 250 games since joining from Tottenham in 2013 for a then world record fee of £85.3million.

Bale's availability could become an issue when the Dragons play at the China Cup in March.

It is understood Wales will receive a greater participation fee if their top players make the 19,000km round trip to the southern Chinese city of Nanning.

But the four-team tournament comes just before the quarter-finals of the Champions League, when Real will expect to be defending the trophy they have won for the last two seasons.

Meanwhile, Gareth Southgate will hand Joe Hart back the number one jersey when England play Brazil tomorrow night, giving the West Ham United man the chance to re-assert his claim to be first-choice goalkeeper.

Hart is under pressure from Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland - pressure that has only increased given Pickford's brilliant performance against Germany last Friday night. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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