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1 Nov 2014 17:36
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Soccer

    All Whites brush off 'rugby rejects' label

    The All Whites are philosophical about being labelled a bunch of rugby rejects by Mexican legend Hugo Sanchez.

    Labelled a bunch rugby rejects by Mexican football legend Hugo Sanchez, the All Whites have shrugged off the description with equal amounts of amusement and bemusement.

    Sanchez picked up 58 caps and 29 goals in a 17-year international career for Mexico, and spent seven years at Spanish club Real Madrid.

    In an interview with Mexican newspaper El Universal, he said Mexico had little to celebrate after overwhelming New Zealand 5-1 at Estadio Azteca last week in the first leg of their World Cup play-off series.

    "We beat a team that is no more than a group of buddies who were rejected because they couldn't play rugby in New Zealand well, and they had no choice but to switch to soccer," he said.

    Two days out from Wednesday's return match at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, three of New Zealand's attacking line-up weren't too upset at Sanchez's words.

    Attack midfielder Chris James, who scored the All Whites' solitary goal last week, was philosophical.

    "He's probably right - we're all a good bunch of mates, we've got a close-knit group," he said before before going on to warn he hadn't yet abandoned his hopes of earning an All Blacks call-up.

    "I'm all right at rugby, I'm a pretty decent kicker. I'm thinking of switching, maybe slipping in for Dan Carter.

    "You never know..."

    Striker Jeremy Brockie, who played 60 minutes in last week's match, says the rugby rejects tag is a little harsh.

    "He's obviously a bit of a legend in Mexico, so he can get away with saying things like that.

    "But rugby rejects? I don't think so, we were all brought up wanting to play football for our country, and we're living that dream at the moment."

    Shane Smeltz, with 48 goals to his credit since making his New Zealand debut against Chile in 2006, has his own theory about Sanchez's description.

    "I reckon maybe he wanted to play a little bit of rugby himself...

    "He can say what he likes, we'll use everything we can to fuel the fire, and hopefully we'll go out there and prove him wrong."


    © 2014 NZN, NZCity

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