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All Whites call in All Blacks legends

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/05/2016

All Whites soccer coach Anthony Hudson has turned to two All Blacks rugby legends to help his players strengthen team culture.

The Englishman invited Sir John Kirwan and Wayne Smith to training in Auckland on Tuesday, two days before he names his squad for the Oceania Nations Cup.

Hudson says the All Whites team have done plenty of work since his appointment 21 months ago in building a team culture and it's a case of taking that further.

"We want to make playing for the All Whites something that is deeply special," he said.

"We want the players to come back and understand what it means to play for New Zealand. The message is we want to make the country proud."

Kirwan was a member of the 1987 Rugby World Cup-winning side and has gone on to coach Italy, Japan and the Blues.

Smith, also a former Test player, is part of the coaching staff that has guided the All Blacks to back-to-back World Cup titles.

Hudson said Kirwan told of the emotion he felt during the 2010 soccer World Cup, when the All Whites went through the pool stage undefeated, drawing with four-time champions Italy along the way.

"This is what it's about - to hear JK talk about the pride he had against Italy," he said.

"It's something I can't really explain. It has to come from a Kiwi and someone that is respected. So two very strong, powerful messages. I know the players appreciated it."

The eight-team Oceania Nations Cup, part of the qualification process for the 2018 World Cup, takes place in Port Moresby from May 28 to June 11.

The tournament winners will also be the region's representatives at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

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