The Kiwis will go into the World Cup without half of the starting side that ran out to face the Kangaroos in Canberra earlier this year.

Only seven of that line-up is in the 24-man squad. It is without doubt a weaker side than what most were expecting for this World Cup.

The chances of beating a very good Kangaroos side were not particularly high even at full strength but they have diminished further without former skipper Jesse Bromwich, experienced second rower Kevin Proctor, five-eighth Kieran Foran, premiership winning second rower Tohu Harris, 2016 Dally M Medal winner Jason Taumalolo, Jordan Kahu, David Fusitua, Manu Mau'u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

They haven't been able to select injured players like Ben Matulino or Corey Harawira-Naera either.


There is no getting around the fact the Kiwis forward strength, that was so prominent in previous seasons, won't be there without so many key players.

Having so many players withdraw late in the piece could potentially galvanise those that remain but talent-wise there is a big hole.

The go-forward is questionable without Bromwich and Taumalolo while the make-up of the back-row looks the biggest area of weakness. The balance of the back-row looked good with Simon Mannering's toughness and defensive capabilities, Taumalolo and Takeiaho's power, mixed with the aggression and creativity of Mau'u and Harris. Now it appears the back-row will feature Mannering with the likes of Joseph Tapine, Isaac Liu, Elijah Taylor and Kenny Bromwich - solid but hardly a clear area of strength.

There has to be a question mark around how the play-making will go as well. Shaun Johnson is coming off an injury and has hardly played in the past three months while there will be inexperienced players at hooker and five-eighth even if they use veteran Thomas Leuluai in the side.

Despite the setbacks the side should still be favoured to win all of their pool games and at least make the semifinals, although Tonga might feel they have narrowed the gap significantly.

In the last two years everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. The culture of the team has clearly been poor if the previous captain was caught buying cocaine at 5am the night after an embarrassing test loss, and the team's best player turned his back on them a day before the team was announced.

Kidwell has talked about forming a new culture - the proof will be in the pudding. If the side backs up the talk and plays to its potential a spot in the final is realistic and who knows what can happen in a one-off game?