ITV shocked as key pundit Keane pulls out of World Cup

The Rio Report

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Roy Keane is no stranger to making waves at a World Cup, as Republic of Ireland fans will have no problem recalling from their 2002 campaign.

Now he has pulled out of the 2014 tournament this summer, rather than having been sent home, leaving ITV with big problems on its hands.

He has suddenly decided, in a manner which no one saw coming, not to travel to Brazil as a pundit for the channel, so that he can focus on his coaching ambitions.

The news will come as a huge shock to ITV, with Keane by far the most popular and respected pundit on its books.

Keane's outspoken and forthright comments have made him largely popular with TV viewers despite a reputation as a player and manager that was, shall we say, mixed.

He appeared at the ITV World Cup launch just a fortnight ago alongside fellow pundits Lee Dixon, Gus Poyet, Fabio Cannavaro and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.

Having been very well received as a pundit and regarded as the leading expert in the ITV line-up, it comes as an enormous blow for the channel so soon before the start of the tournament.

"Roy has been a tremendous part of our pundit team in recent years, but we fully understand his decision to concentrate wholly on his coaching," an ITV spokesperson said.

"We wish him every success for the future."

The former Sunderland Ipswich Town manager has been strongly linked with an assistant manager's role at Aston Villa, which it is understood he would be able to take in addition to his role with Ireland.

ITV has very little time now to find a replacement for its leading pundit with the channel to broadcast the opening game between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.

Sharing the rights with the BBC, ITV will then show England's second and third group games against Uruguay and Costa Rica.

[Keane decision to reject Celtic shows why Lennon had to quit]

[BBC or ITV: Who has the best World Cup pundits?]

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