Soccer: English striker available for NZ? April Fool's

Southampton striker Rickie Lambert declared himself available to play for the All Whites overnight, before admitting it was an April Fool's joke.

The 31-year-old appeared in a video on the Southampton Football Club website overnight in which he talked about his decision to play for New Zealand, while holding an All Whites shirt behind a New Zealand supporter's flag.

Lambert, who scored his 14th goal of the season on Sunday in a 2-1 win over Chelsea, told saintsfc.co.uk he was available to play for New Zealand due to his Kiwi-born grandfather.

"I've made no secret of the fact that I would love to play international football, but I haven't yet managed to break into the England squad.

"New Zealand has always had a special place in my heart given that my grandfather was born there.

"I hadn't really considered the possibility of being able to play for them until a couple of months ago, when it came up in conversation with Graeme (the club physio).

He said he thought I had a case, so it's all gone from there.

"Everything I've heard from their footballing authorities and their foreign office has been encouraging, so I'm really hopeful that this can get sorted out sooner rather than later.

"I've been keeping a close eye on how they've been getting on in their recent matches, and hopefully I'll get the call to play for them in the near future."

However the ruse was later revealed on the team website as an April Fool's joke.

The Liverpool-born striker's chances of playing at the next World Cup might have been greater if he actually was available for New Zealand.

His hopes of playing international level football remain in the hands of English manager Roy Hodgson following the side's 1-1 draw with Montenegro last week. England still have some work ahead of them to gain automatic qualification to the 2014 World Cup, sitting in second in Group H.

The All Whites meanwhile are a two-match home and away playoff from reaching the World Cup for the second straight time.

- nzherald.co.nz

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