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Wood returns to NZ in fine scoring touch

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/03/2017 Angelo Risso

In-form Kiwi target man Chris Wood has backed a fully-locked-and-loaded All Whites to brush aside the challenge of Fiji in next week's home-and-away World Cup qualifiers.

The 25-year-old Wood has banged in 24 goals for Leeds United in the Championship this season, including a brace in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Brighton.

He'll now travel back to the Shaky Isles ahead of the All Whites' clashes with the Bula Boys in Lautoka and Wellington.

The Waikato native, who moved to England aged 17, put his strong form at club level down to the support of manager Garry Monk and his teammates.

They had given him the freedom to play his natural muscular game for the West Yorkshire outfit as they stake their claim for a promotion play-off place.

"Finally I feel I've got a team and manager that back me," Wood said.

"Obviously you have your ups and downs, but at the moment it's looking good."

The same is likely to take place at international level, with All Whites boss Anthony Hudson bringing in his near-best squad for the qualifiers.

Winston Reid and Tommy Smith will almost certainly pair up in the heart of the Kiwi defence, while Mike McGlinchey will be tasked with supplying Wood good ball.

Speedsters Marco Rojas and Ryan Thomas will likely line up on the flanks.

"It's nice to see everybody's there and turning up," Wood said.

"It's the first time we've had our strongest XXIII there, bar a couple that are just unfortunate to miss out."

Wood is likely to spearhead New Zealand's tilt at the Confederations Cup later this year, encompassing matches against Group A opponents Mexico, a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal and hosts Russia.

Hudson, for his part, backed Wood to become a bona fide English football star and lead the Kiwi line with aplomb at major tournaments.

But the 191cm hitman insisted he was focused on the immediate Fijian threat, with Wellington Phoenix winger Roy Krishna in hot form.

Adapting to conditions in Lautoka would also be a challenge.

"We know what they're all about," Wood said.

"It's a physical match, tough match, very tough for everybody.

"But as long as we do our work and do it well on the pitch, we'll be fine."

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