Sean St Ledger is hoping not to lose too much sleep over the prospect of trying to keep Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka at bay.

The 25-year-old Republic of Ireland defender is in line to win his eighth senior cap in Saturday's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ play-off clash with France at Croke Park before heading to Paris for the return leg next Wednesday.

Ireland's chances of making South Africa 2010 could depend largely on how he and partner Richard Dunne cope with the threat of the French strikeforce, and the Middlesbrough stopper knows just how tough a task that could be. Asked if that thought was keeping him awake at night, St Ledger said: "I don't fancy facing Anelka and Henry on two hours' sleep.

"It's a daunting prospect. I have watched them on a Saturday night on Match of the Day, I have seen people trying to catch Henry and it's a scary thought. But at the same time, I look forward to it. It's one of those games I have always dreamt of playing in and it's only a few days away.

It's a daunting prospect. But at the same time, I look forward to it. It's one of those games I have always dreamt of playing in,

Sean St Ledger.

"I want to play in the Premier League at some point - that's why I joined Middlesbrough - and I would have to be playing against these players week in and week out, so it will be a good judge of how far I can go or how far I have gone. But only time will tell."

If manager Giovanni Trapattoni sticks with what has become his first-choice defence in recent games, St Ledger will be the junior member of a quartet which will also include the hugely-experienced Dunne, Kevin Kilbane and John O'Shea, who have amassed 214 caps between them. However, his speed across the ground could prove vital, although he is not expecting to be able to show Barcelona hitman Henry a clean pair of heels.

St Ledger said: "I don't know about racing Henry - I'm not that quick. It is going to be a difficult game for us, but Kevin, Richard, Shay (Given) and John have played against these players week in and week out and have had the experience, and I am sure they will pass that on to me."

Experience is something St Ledger is gathering by the minute on the international stage having only made his senior debut against Nigeria in May. But Trapattoni had no qualms about pitching him into battle with Italy last month, when his late header looked to have clinched a famous victory until the reigning champions snatched a draw at the death.

The defender said: "Against Italy, I said it was the biggest game of my career, and I feel like I am repeating myself again. It is obviously a huge, huge game, just one below the World Cup finals, and you can't get much bigger than that."