Matchwinner Franck Queudrue dominated Middlesbrough's pre-match preparations with talk of forging an international career with the Republic of Ireland.

An earnest Queudrue last week revealed he has an Irish grandfather and admitted should Les Bleus not come calling soon he would like to represent the country of his ancestral blood.

Given the Frenchman made the announcement on the eve of April Fool's Day most people believed he was playing a prank on them. Queudrue, however, is adamant he is deadly serious.

"I have hopes to play for France first of all but if there is any interest (from Ireland), I have Irish blood," admitted Queudrue after Boro's 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace. "But I think it is too far into the future at the moment."

France may be renowned for its fine wines and culinary delights throughout the modern world but the 26-year-old defender confessed should he pull on the green jersey of Ireland he would have little difficulty getting used to the Emerald Isle's cultural delicacies.

"I have tried Guinness but not Irish whiskey, and it tastes good," he quipped.

Queudrue's bullet header was his fifth goal of the season and represented only Boro's second Premiership win this year. Ironically, their last win - a 1-0 victory against Blackburn at the Riverside - came courtesy of the Frenchman.

Queudrue, however, says he would be more than happy to swap his goals for clean sheets as Boro bid to secure European football on Teesside for a second successive year.

He said: "I would be happy to stay on five goals for the rest of the season if we manage to keep a clean sheet in every game. But I am always happy to score goals. Last season I didn't score any so this season I have redressed the balance."

The former Lens left-back revealed his winning goal did not come about by chance but was meticulously rehearsed in training after the Middlesbrough coaching staff had spotted a weakness in the Crystal Palace defence.

"We watched a few videos before the game and we knew their goalkeeper stays on his back post," said Queudrue. "So we put a couple of players on both posts and it allowed me to score at the front post."

Injuries followed by a tough European schedule has been largely to blame for the Teessiders' slump from fifth to ninth place in the Premiership table before Saturday's game. But with a two-week break for the World Cup qualifiers, boss Steve McClaren has managed to get a couple of his wounded soldiers back in action. Queudrue believes this was central to Boro's victory in south London at the weekend.

"I think it was good we had the international break because we managed to get some players back from injury, which helped us," he reflected. "George (Boateng) and Ray (Parlour) worked their socks off. It gives the defenders a boost when George plays because he provides a shield in front of the defence. But Bolo (Zenden) and Doriva, when he came on, also gave the back four some protection. But that is the spirit of the team, we have never lost that even when we were losing. We have a great atmosphere at the training ground and we all stick together.

"We did not play our normal football in the second-half because most of the time we had to defend. But I think the whole team defended well and worked hard to get the three points."

Boro may have given an accomplished performance at Selhurst Park on Saturday but the classy defender is not getting too carried away with their first win in five games.

He said: " It is too early to be talking about a UEFA Cup place, it is only one win after all. We have to be focused game by game but it has set us up for the last seven games.

"We have high hopes and we want to play in Europe once again next season. We know it will be hard work but I think we could do it."

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