Rojas, Smeltz ruled out for All Whites

The All Whites injury toll is growing ahead of their home-and-away World Cup qualifying series against the Solomon Islands later this week.

Midfielder Marco Rojas has been ruled out with a quad strain while striker Shane Smeltz has torn his right calf muscle.

The All Whites have already lost the services of skipper Winston Reid and centre-back Tommy Smith in the build-up.

Smeltz will be replaced by Alex Rufer (Wellington Phoenix), with Sam Brotherton (Sunderland) slotting in for Reid. Rojas will not be replaced.

Hudson said while it was disappointing to lose players to injury, it was always a risk in top level football.

‘‘This presents a great opportunity for others to step up and be a part of our plans going forward for the rest of the year.

‘‘Sam has been a part of our squad for a long time now, and when he’s called upon I know he’ll step up,’’ Hudson said.

‘‘I have said for a while now that I believe Alex Rufer is one of the best young players in New Zealand, and it’s an opportunity for him to show his ability in two very big games.’’

Hudson said the All Whites, who began arriving in Auckland yesterday,  were looking forward to playing at home in front of a good crowd at QBE Stadium on Friday.

‘‘We only have our full squad together for two and a-half days before kick-off, so every minute with the team counts.’’ 

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