Wales forward Gareth Bale returns after ankle injury

Ireland will meet Chris Coleman's side in the next month's World Cup Group D qualifier

BY Cian Roche 18:03 Friday 17 February 2017, 18:03 17 Feb 2017

Image: Daniel Ochoa de Olza / AP/Press Association Images

Gareth Bale looks set to be fit for Wales' upcoming World Cup qualifier with Ireland next month after he returned to training with club side Real Madrid.

Bale had spent a period on the sidelines after picking up an ankle injury last November while playing against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.

The Welshman underwent surgery to treat a damaged ankle tendon and has spent the last three months returning to full fitness. 

"He will be in the squad and the plan is for him to have some minutes," Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane told the BBC

"Bale is a very important player for us. We know the quality and speed that he has, and the damage he can cause the opposition.

"He's very happy to return to the team, to be with us, and be able to play again."

Bale will be crucial not only to Madrid's final run-in in La Liga, but also to his national side's chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Wales have made a stuttering start to their qualifying campaign with draws against Serbia and at home to Georgia.

Ireland, meanwhile, sit top of the group on 10 points after wins against Moldova, Georgia and Austria, as well as an opening campaign draw away to Serbia. Martin O'Neill's side are two points clear of second-placed Serbia.

The sides meet at the Aviva Stadium on March 24.

Gareth Bale was one of Wales' leading figures in the search for qualification for last year's European Championships in France and starred as the team made it to the semi-final of a major competition for the first time. Image: Martin Rickett / PA Wire/PA Images

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