The rivalry between New Zealand and Australian sporting codes is as intense as any other in world sport.

Never is that more apparent than when the All Blacks play the Wallabies or the Black Caps take on the Australian cricketers.

But this week in Tauranga taekwondo squads of the two countries joined forces with a passing nod to the old Anzac spirit to try and improve their chances of making the Rio Olympics and onwards ahead to Tokyo in 2016.

Australian fighters train with top NZ fighters. Rhiannan O'Neill (in red) NZ and Allie Waideman (Perth). Photo/John Borren
Australian fighters train with top NZ fighters. Rhiannan O'Neill (in red) NZ and Allie Waideman (Perth). Photo/John Borren

For five days, 54 fighters aged from 12 to 22 have been tested physically and mentally in intense training and sparring based at the Tauranga/Mount TKO centre. Both countries have fighters who will battle the odds at next month's Oceania qualifiers in Papua New Guinea to win a coveted Olympic spot, including Mount Maunganui's Rhiannon O'Neill.

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The training camp came about through the mutual respect built over 30 years between centre owner and New Zealand Taekwondo high performance director, Master Kesi O'Neill, and Grand Master Charles Rawlins from Australia.

Rawlins is an eighth-dan black belt involved with the Australian emerging athletes programme.

"Master Kesi wants to help the younger kids coming through for Tokyo so he asked me to bring over some of our promising fighters to help train them," Rawlins said.

Read more: Taekwondo: O'Neill faces tough hurdle for Rio

"We are behind the whole world. At one time Australia was a powerhouse and won gold and silver at the 2000 Olympics but nothing since. The kids have gone weak really and we are trying to bring the hardness in the kids back.

"It will be a good little war when we meet in Papua New Guinea to qualify. I hope Rhiannon (O'Neill) makes it."

New Zealand's number one-rated fighter Vaughn Scott, 26, from Auckland came close to winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics.

At one time Australia was a powerhouse and won gold and silver at the 2000 Olympics but nothing since. The kids have gone weak really and we are trying to bring the hardness in the kids back.

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He says the camp was a first opportunity to train with other athletes from Australia and New Zealand.

"It is good to get different views from different masters as it helps you in a way of scoring points and helping with your technique. We also don't get to train with the electronic stuff. Four cameras were set up with specially designed chest pads and socks with sensors to record hits and scoring points," Scott said.

"The sport is growing so much here. In Auckland it is quite big but the Mount is almost getting the same size as Auckland now."

For Master Kesi O'Neill the camp had been a great success.

He said it had added new life and an opening for New Zealand taekwondo.

"New Zealand and Australia are at the same sort of level so we have all learned a lot from Grand Master Charles."