The Black Sticks preparations for the coming World Cup have been disrupted after a pair of losses in Cromwell.

Missing five players from their Commonwealth Games gold medal winning team, the Black Sticks went down to Japan and Australia on consecutive days.

Northlander Ella Gunson has been given the captaincy for the Pioneer Energy Tri Nations but taking on strong Japanese and Australian sides were always going to be a test for the undermanned Kiwis.

Fellow Northlander Sam Harrison picked up a goal in the Japan defeat before the hosts conceded five minutes from fulltime.

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But their performance against Australia was more troubling as a lack of discipline against an Australian team desperate for revenge ended in a 4-1 win for the Commonwealth Games silver medallists.

Olivia Merry's goal was more than counteracted by strikes from Jodie Kenny, Brooke Peris, Lily Brazel and Kalindi Commerford.

Kenny's goal came within the opening 120 seconds before Merry's strike had the game tied up six minutes later.

However, the Australians were far more clinical and composed for the remainder of the contest.

Black Sticks head coach for the series Sean Dancer said it was a disappointing performance.

"We showed a lack of composure early on which led to cards and ultimately put more pressure on us. Overall it was a disappointing first half performance with Australia dominating," he said.

"The second half saw us connect much better and create some good opportunities but we were unable to score.

"We'll use tomorrow to refocus and prepare well for the next two games knowing we need to come out and play better."

There's no doubting the Black Sticks are missing captain Stacey Michelsen, along with Sam Charlton, Liz Thompson, Amy Robinson and the recently-retired Pippa Hayward.

But with a younger squad taking to the cold turf of Cromwell, they're learning valuable lessons and accelerating development ahead of arguably the year's premier hockey event in the World Cup.

While the Commonwealth Games gold was a terrific achievement after years of falling short, the World Cup represents a greater challenge for the New Zealanders.

The likes of The Netherlands and Argentina, the world Nos 1 and 3 ranked sides respectively, will be after the World Cup crown after not being in the Commonwealth Games field.

New Zealand next take on Japan tonight.