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Ryan and Winston the 'Richie and Dan' of NZ Football

Published: 8:37AM Wednesday September 12, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has praised the efforts of his Premier League stars following a successful window of World Cup qualifiers concluded last night.

Following the "Horror in Honiara" three months ago, which saw New Zealand knocked out of the OFC Nations Cup in the semi-finals, the All Whites exacted revenge with a 2-0 win over New Caledonia in Noumea, before spanking the Solomon Islands 6-1 at North Harbour Stadium last night.

The turn around in form must at least in part be attributed to the presence of captain Ryan Nelsen and fellow English Premier League defender Winston Reid in the squad. Both players missed the OFC Nations Cup through injury, but were able to take the time away from their clubs this week to turn out for the national side.

Herbert reiterated the importance of having both players available for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, likening it to the roles played by the All Blacks' two biggest stars.

"It's fantastic, they're Richie McCaw and Dan Carter really and when those two aren't playing for the All Blacks the whole nation quivers a wee bit," he told reporters after last night's match.

"They're excellent, they're playing in arguably the best league in the world so why wouldn't they be good for us."

The coach, who led New Zealand in his 50th international coach last night, said the whole side lifted when Nelsen and Reid were in the camp.

"I think from the other players' points of view as well, there were a lot of excellent performances tonight with that stability in the team and I think it's a very good side and I'm privileged to be coaching it.

"It's solid and it's strong and when we get everybody back we're a tough side to beat."

The All Blacks comparison is probably an accurate one as New Zealand's organisation improved noticably from Honiara with the star pair at the back, with Nelsen's presence particularly important. The inspirational captain was quick to point out where his place was in the analogy.

"I'd like to be the Dan Carter of the team," Nelsen quipped. "I think I'm a lot better looking than Richie."

The Queens Park Rangers centre-back was happy with the clinical nature of the All Whites victory last night in tough conditions.

"It was a wee bit tricky with the weather on the rugby field, but we knew that we could isolate their back four and get in behind them and I think we ground them down and exposed them quite a bit and in the end we probably could have had a few more."

It doesn't get any easier for Nelsen who returns to the United Kingdom to turn out for QPR in their Premier League clash with Chelsea on Sunday, while Reid will be hoping to continue his good form when West Ham travel to Norwich.

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