"Chris Kirkland, for me, would be England's number one goalkeeper," Bruce told reporters as he prepared to head back to the DW Stadium for the first time since moving to Sunderland.
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"I've had the privilege to work alongside a great one in Peter Schmeichel at Manchester United. He is right up there. I rated him that highly when I was there.
"He was a great goalkeeper who has been unfortunate with injury. If it wasn't for that he'd have a stackful of caps right now and be a certainty for the World Cup.
"Obviously the risk with Chris is the problem. If you take him as part of your squad and he breaks down, putting my managerial head on you can see why he might not be taking the risk. He's a fantastic goalkeeper; he just has a horrible bad back."
Kirkland, 28, has just one England cap and his chances of winning a place in Fabio Capello's England squad were undermined by the 9-1 defeat at Tottenham although Bruce insists the scoreline would have been far worse for Wigan without him.
"I've just read the scouting report from Tottenham and apparently in the first 20 minutes he kept them in the game," Bruce added.
"I've just read the report from my chief scout, Frank Barlow, and in the first 20, 25 minutes Tottenham were out of the traps but only got one goal in front.
"Apparently he was unbelievable in the first 25 minutes and made save after save to keep them in the match. To get beaten by nine it will have hurt them all, particularly the goalkeeper.
"We've all been there and got a hiding but the great thing about it is there's always next week's game to put it right."
Bruce is hoping that nine-goal leading score Darren Bent will spearhead his attack at Wigan as scans eased fears he had damaged a hamstring in last weekend's 1-0 defeat of Arsenal.
"If it was just a cut or a knock that would be one thing but he's obviously felt something," Bruce added.
"We think it was more cramp and fatigue and the muscle tightening up. We've been very thorough in the scans and all the stuff that can be. With a hamstring injury he wouldn't be bounding around like he was on Thursday if he'd nicked it.
"We'll see how he is on Friday. But it gave everyone a huge lift to see him on the training ground, that's for sure. He did his work with the physios and it was pretty vigorous. It wasn't half-paced or anything like that. He was flying."