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All Whites lift intensity for Irish clash

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017

The arrival of senior pros Chris Wood and Tommy Smith for the first time on the All Whites' tour of Ireland has led to a noticeable lift in intensity, striker Kosta Barbarouses says.

The New Zealanders play Northern Ireland early on Saturday (NZT) in the first match of a three-game series warming up for the Confederations Cup in Russia early next month.

Kosta Barbarouses, who has made a return to the All Whites after missing the World Cup qualifiers against Fiji, says the experience Wood and Smith bring is invaluable..

Wood is the Golden Boot winner with Leeds United this year in the England Championship, while Smith is a key figure in the Kiwi defence in the absence of skipper Winston Reid.

"They are both really great players and the more (players like that) we can have in the squad the better. They definitely add quality."

Barbarouses, who has earned 37 caps for New Zealand, is looking forward to pairing up with Wood up front and adding to his three goals in internationals.

"Playing off a guy like Woodsy is great because even when the ball isn't perfect in the air, or even along the ground, he does a great job of getting it under control.

"Running off him makes my job that little bit easier, having someone like that as a focal point."

Barbarouses said the team was treating the fixture as a key stepping stone for their opening game in the Confederations Cup.

"It's going to be very fast-paced and direct, and we are going to have to adapt to their counterattack and be set up and organised very quickly," he said.

"We have pinpointed what we want to do in this game and what we need to get out of it to be ready for the first game in Russia."

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