Worthy underdogs for tomorrow night's transtasman test, former national coach Wayne Bennett says New Zealand will be an even more formidable outfit when the rugby league World Cup rolls around at the end of the year.
The Kiwis enter the contest as rank outsiders against a star-studded Australian lineup, but Bennett says they will not only put up a fight in Canberra, but will be a vastly improved outfit when they defend their World Cup crown in England.
Bennett said Australia's x-factor in the early-season tests had been the combinations formed from playing State of Origin every year.
"They can just go into camp and click into gear and be on the same page because they do it three times a year," said Bennett.
"You look at what [Kiwi coach] Stephen Kearney has to bring together in five days and it's not easy.
"Australia [Tim Sheens] has got the same job but has Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston. What changes for those blokes when they go into camp?
"That's the advantage they have in those one-off games with short preparations.
"They've done it so many times at Origin level."
Australia have won the past 10 in-season tests since 2000 averaging 34 points a game while conceding just 10 points.
But New Zealand have also sprung a few huge upsets including the 2005 Tri Nations final, the 2008 World Cup final and more recently the 2010 Four Nations final.