Lizzy Igasan has been honoured as New Zealand's best female player for the past two years but whether she will return to the international arena remains unclear.

Igasan made herself unavailable for the crucial World Cup qualifying tournament in Rome, which ends this weekend, citing "personal reasons".

Her absence has had a profound effect on the Black Sticks, who had to win or draw this morning's final pool match with Italy to keep their Cup qualifying hopes alive.

Without Igasan's defensive qualities and her role as the go-to player at penalty corners, New Zealand have struggled - winning only one of their first four pool matches.

Coach Ian Rutledge said it was Igasan's call to pull out, tagging it "disappointing", adding "the ball is in her court" on whether she returns.

"She is one of the better players in the world," said Rutledge. "It is disappointing we are not getting a return on our investment in her."

Igasan refused to say what led to her decision but said reasons given in one newspaper report were not right. That story said she and Rutledge had disagreed over a team curfew at the Commonwealth Games and that had led to her decision to opt out of Rome.

Of suggestions she was unhappy about a call Rutledge made about the future captaincy of the team - long-serving captain Suzie Muirhead is due to retire after the Rome tournament - Igasan said she would not comment.

It's also been said she was unhappy when long-time teammates Jaimee Provan and Niniwa Roberts-Lang were dropped from the Games team.

Roberts-Lang has subsequently returned to the team, called in from Germany as a late replacement for the injured Honor Dillon.

"I can't say at the moment whether I will return to the side," said Igasan yesterday. "I'm not going into the reasons at this stage. Eventually I will sit down with Ian and discuss it. Yes, I would say there are a few issues but I'm not ruling out a return."

Igasan returned to the turf last Friday for Hibiscus Dairy Flat in the North Harbour competition. She has switched from East Coast Bays to join long-time friend Paula Enoka at her new club.

"I just want to enjoy my club hockey which I often don't get to play a lot of," Igasan said.

Any talks between her and Rutledge are likely to come soon as the Black Sticks are scheduled to play the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam in a couple of months.

It was Igasan's play at the qualifying event in the United States which was key in the Black Sticks winning and qualifying for Amsterdam. It also saw her nominated for the International Player of the Year award which virtually assured her of a second straight NZ player of the year gong.

New Zealand's chances of making the semifinals in Rome and gaining automatic World Cup qualification, slumped when they were beaten 5-3 by Korea yesterday.

"We were never ahead but we were well and truly in it, said Rutledge. "The Koreans came at us in the second half of the first spell and luck went their way.

"They were awarded one goal which did not go into the goal. It hit the post and stayed out."

"They also scored a runaway just after halftime when Suzie Muirhead was tackled and the ball hit a Korean foot."

Play continued and the Koreans went out to 3-1. But Rutledge was pleased with one aspect of his team's play. "We converted three of the four penalty corners we had with Jane Maley, Muirhead and Di Weavers all scoring.

"For us to make it to the World Cup it is simple. We have to win three games."

Starting against Italy.

Korea, the US, England and Japan have qualified.

The last place will be taken by the winner of the 5th-8th playoff with China, France and Ireland already in that group. They will be joined by either New Zealand or Italy.