Selection chaos, positional confusion and NRL crises exploding on both sides of the Tasman - as far as build-ups to a test match go, it's hard to imagine a worse scenario for the Kiwis and coach Stephen Kearney.

Key players have fallen like nine-pins, the team's spine has never played together, there's an injury cloud over centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Gerard Beale arrived by taxi midway through Monday's training, and Brad Takairangi and Kenny Bromwich arrived yesterday.

Compounding the situation has been the ongoing fallout from the Warriors' energy drinks and prescription medicines saga.

In fact, the Kiwis' ability to attract a crisis was summed up yesterday when their training was held at Parramatta's training ground on the same morning the biggest scandal in the history of the Eels blew up.


It meant there was a legion of Australian media present as the session ended, and management had to shield Taikarangi as he made his way from the ground to the team bus.

It's far from ideal, but this is the way it tends to go with the Kiwis. Remember the 1990s and early 2000s, when the NRL regularly found suspensions for Kiwi eligible players? And ill-timed injuries and withdrawals have become par for the course.

If Kearney made a list of players he would rather not do without, Kieran Foran would be near the top, followed by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dean Whare. Peta Hiku and Thomas Leuluai have also become indispensable for their versatility.

As it stands, the Kiwis go into Friday's match with a centre playing fullback, a forward wearing the No 6 jersey and a second rower in the crucial dummy half role. To compound matters, Shaun Johnson, the only experienced member of the spine, has been down on form.

"I'm not particularly concerned with what Shaun has done in the previous weeks," said Kearney. "I know, if we get into the position that we want to get into, he will be fine."

Meanwhile, the Kangaroos - with their settled, experienced lineup and all-Queensland spine - continued their untroubled buildup beside the beach in Coogee.

But the Kiwis are talking tough and remaining positive, which is their only option in the circumstances.

"We are playing Australia," Tohu Harris said: "There is nothing bigger than that. It doesn't matter what role we have, whether it's different to what we are used to, we have to prepare as best as we can. We have a huge challenge playing against an experienced Australian team."