Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy pleased that New Zealand international Tommy Smith has put club before country

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy is pleased that defender Tommy Smith is putting club before country this week.

The 23-year-old centre-back decided to make himself unavailable for New Zealand’s friendly in Japan today in order to focus on a busy run of Championship games for the Blues.

Ipswich kick-started a run of seven games in March with a 1-0 home win over Birmingham last weekend. It was a result which lifted them to ninth in the table and reduced the gap on sixth-placed Wigan to four points with 13 games to go.

This Saturday the Blues make the 500-mile round-trip to north east side Middlesbrough, with the 440-mile round trip to south west side Yeovil following just three days later.

“I just spoke to Tommy and asked ‘have you got a game this week?’ and he said ‘no, I’m not going’,” said McCarthy.

“I don’t know what the game is. It’s a friendly is it? Well he went across and played those two (World Cup qualification) play-off games against Mexico and was totally committed to that so fair play to him for missing a friendly in Japan at this time of year when we’ve got all those games coming up.

“Mind you we’ve got two trips nearly as long as that coming up with Middlesbrough and Yeovil!”

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New Zealand’s caretaker boss Chris Emblen said: “I’m sympathetic to Tommy’s situation. His club agreed to release him but Tommy feels this is an opportunity to prioritise his club who are fighting for promotion for the first time in a while.

“You either want to play and make the effort to come back like all the other boys or you run the risk of someone else playing well.”

Meanwhile, Town striker Daryl Murphy could make his first appearance for the Republic of Ireland in more than six-and-a-half years tonight. The 30-year-old striker is in Martin O’Neill’s squad, along with club-mate Paul Green, for a friendly against Serbia in Dublin.

Blues centre-back Christophe Berra could feature for Scotland in their friendly against Poland in Warsaw.