Alex Rufer's lack of recent game time won't count against him when New Zealand meet Fiji in their World Cup qualifier on Saturday, All Whites coach Anthony Hudson says.
Alex Rufer celebrates during the FIFA U20 World Cup
Rufer has been called into the All Whites as a late replacement for injured Ipswich Town FC attacking midfielder Monty Patterson.
The 20-year-old hasn't been able to overcome a hamstring injury, and Hudson has opted to bring Rufer in despite his lack of game time for Wellington Phoenix.
Rufer has played just three A-League games this season, the most recent a five-minute cameo against Central Coast Mariners on November 12.
His game time with the Phoenix reserves has also been limited.
Wellington co-coach Chris Greenacre last month said that Rufer had been told what he needed to do to force his way back into the A-League team but wouldn't elaborate on exactly what that was.
Hudson admitted to some surprise at Rufer's lack of recent game time.
"Yes, 100 per cent, but it's not for me to comment on what they do," he said as the All Whites began assembling in Wellington ahead of Saturday's match in Lautoka.
"Alex Rufer is one of the best young players in New Zealand. We don't have a lot of players in this country, and this is a player we need to take care of."
Hudson said players such as Sam Brotherton, Clayton Lewis, Kip Colvey and Deklan Wynne had plenty to offer.
"Just because they're not playing for the Phoenix, doesn't mean we give them the cold shoulder. That's wrong."
Hudson said his job as national team manager differed vastly from the week-in week-out demands of coaching a professional club.
"If you look in the Premier League, there's players sat on benches that can't get in their Premier League teams that are superstars for their countries.
"You can't compare the way I select to the way a club selects because it's completely different."
Hudson has previously worked with Rufer at under-23 level, describing him as an outstanding player, technically good, and with fight and spirit.
The 20-year-old had worked his way back from a horrendous leg-break in December 2015, and in September last year signed a new two-year contract with the Phoenix.
Hudson said he'd watched Rufer at training, and reports from the other players were good.
"This is a player we really need to value and look after."