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Alex Pearce and Stephen Ward were full of praise for the new Boys in Green boss, who has welcomed the duo back from the international wilderness following his appointment

Republic of Ireland defenders Alex Pearce and Stephen Ward both admit they are looking forward to a "fresh start" under new manager Martin O'Neill.

The duo were left out of recent squads by O'Neill's predecessor, Giovanni Trapattoni, but have returned to the international fold and are keen to impress the new boss.

"No matter how many caps you’ve got, I think it’s a clean slate and everyone is trying to come in and do the best they can from the word go," Pearce said.

At his unveiling, O'Neill claimed he would treat his squad selection with an "open mind", and versatile full-back-cum-striker Ward, currently on loan at Brighton from Wolves, is pleased that Ireland is ushering in a new era.

"It’s time to move on now, and it’s a fresh start and a new era for everyone," said the 28-year-old, echoing the views of Pearce.

O'Neill will be flanked by Roy Keane, who is the new assistant manager for the Boys in Green, and Ward admits he has a huge amount of respect for the former Manchester United midfielder.

"It’s a little bit surreal sometimes," Ward added. "You grow up watching him and he’s one of the greatest players to play for Ireland."

Former boss Trapattoni was often criticised for being overly cautious with his team selections, and O'Neill hinted at bringing more exciting football to the side - though maintained that three points will always be the most important thing.

"If you have the calibre of player in your midst that’s able to excite people, go past players and is a proper match winner then of course let him go and play," O'Neill said ahead of Friday's friendly against Latvia.

"If you haven’t those players available to you at the time then you have to have an approach to the game.

"You have to treat the game and the players accordingly and don’t ask the players to do something that they’re incapable of doing."

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