Nothing to lose, says All Whites coach

Danny Hay (left) and Winston Reid ahead of the All Whites' clash with Ireland. Photo: Getty Images
Danny Hay (left) and Winston Reid ahead of the All Whites' clash with Ireland. Photo: Getty Images
The All Whites' long-awaited return is upon us, although do not expect miracles straight away.

That was new coach Danny Hay's thinking as the side prepared to play its first game in 525 days, against the world 36th-ranked Ireland in Dublin, at 8.45am today.

Winston Reid will lead the team, also making his return to top-level football after missing 18 months with a knee injury.

It is a squad which features plenty of youth, including Otago product James McGarry, and Hay has hinted many of those players will take the field.

Meanwhile, striker Chris Wood remained an uncertainty, the Burnley star missing training on Tuesday with a niggle.

The team has been together for just two days and Hay was pleased with how it had come together.

Despite that, he warned not to expect everything to click instantly.

"For me, the result I'm putting to one side," he said.

"This is all about preparing for 2022 and beyond for us.

"With two days training we can't expect miracles.

"I guess the saying `Rome wasn't built in a day' is very much in line with what we're going through.

"We've got to be realistic about what's going to happen tomorrow.

"There's going to be times when the players make mistakes.

"We want to come away having a really good idea about the character, mentality, level of investment and the ability to play within the style of play we're trying to implement around every single player."

It is unclear what type of line-up Ireland will put out, although it is understood to be below-strength.

Ireland head coach Mick McCarthy has said his side's primary focus was its Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark next week.

Despite that, Hay was still expecting a quality opposition.

He said it would be a "baptism of fire" as such for many of the younger players.

However, he hoped they could go into it with no fear.

"I want to take any fear, anxiety off the players.

"What's there to lose for us? There's actually nothing to lose.

"We haven't played for so long.

"It's an opportunity to play against a very good team, wonderful stadium.

"They should be enjoying the moment.

"Yeah, they've got to work hard, I've got no doubt they will.

"But go and express themselves and play some fearless football, be brave."

The game will be followed by a match against Lithuania on Monday morning.


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