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Smith back to fortify All Whites defence

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/03/2017

Tommy Smith of New Zealand © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Tommy Smith of New Zealand Kiwi defender Tommy Smith is in line to make his first All Whites appearance since 2014 after being named in coach Anthony Hudson's squad for home-and-away World Cup qualifiers against Fiji.

The Ipswich Town defender, a former international captain and 2010 World Cup stalwart, was ushered back into the Kiwi fold in October by Hudson.

He had previously been frozen out of the squad due to a perceived lack of communication and commitment to the All Whites' cause.

But, a back injury forced him to skip the side's November qualifiers against New Caledonia, from which they secured a win and a draw.

The 26-year-old will be expected to slot into the All Whites' defence alongside West Ham stopper and Kiwi captain Winston Reid.

Hudson has named a full-strength squad for the fixtures in Lautoka and Wellington, with six points securing passage to the OFC playoff final.

Veteran Shane Smeltz has returned to the fold after an 18-month international absence, while in-form Leeds striker Chris Wood is a certainty up front.

The 25-year-old has scored 22 goals in the English Championship in 2016-17, spearheading his side's Premier League promotion tilt.

"It comes down to his mentality and how hard he works," Hudson said.

"Wood and a few others in this squad can be superstars on the international stage this year because they have now earned that platform."

Elsewhere, Dutch-based young gun Ryan Thomas and Melbourne Victory ace Marco Rojas will stake their claim for a spot on the wing.

South African-born left back Deklan Wynne will fly in from his base at Vancouver Whitecaps, as will Bill Tuiloma from Marseille.

Two potential debutants have also been named in Australian-born siblings Jai and Dane Ingham, both plying their trade in the A-League.

Hudson was bullish about his side's prospects in 2017 which, most importantly, takes in a Confederations Cup tilt in June in Russia.

He wanted his side to build on their recent showings against USA, Mexico and New Caledonia, in which they lost just once, by securing back-to-back Fiji wins.

"We have played many times against the Island teams and been consistent, and now it's time to build on our last tour," Hudson said.

The side will assemble for a training camp on March 19 in Wellington ahead of their match on March 25 in Lautoka.

The follow-up fixture will be held three days later in the Kiwi capital.

ALL WHITES: Stefan Marinovic (SpVgg Unterhaching), Tamati Williams (RKC Waalwijk), Glen Moss (Wellington Phoenix); Andrew Durante (Phoenix), Tom Doyle (Phoenix), Michael Boxall (SuperSport Utd), Kip Colvey (San Jose Earthquakes), Themi Tzimopoulos (PAS Giannina), Deklan Wynne (Vancouver Whitecaps), Winston Reid (West Ham United), Sam Brotherton (Sunderland), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Dane Ingham (Brisbane Roar); Bill Tuiloma (Marseille), Clayton Lewis (Auckland City), Michael McGlinchey (Phoenix), Moses Dyer (Eastern Suburbs), Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle); Chris Wood (Leeds Utd), Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory), Shane Smeltz (Phoenix), Jai Ingham (Melbourne Victory).

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