New Zealand might have the wood on Australia on the rugby field, but rowing shouldn't be far behind by the finish of the world championships at Lake Karapiro.

The Kiwi squad looks set to dominate their transtasman rivals on the medal table, although few of the events provide crew-on-crew rivalry.

The coxless fours is the contest most likely to excite. New Zealand's crew of David Eade, Jade Uru, Hamish Burson and Simon Watson are on the improve, finishing second in the final World Cup event. Australia's Matt Ryan, James Marburg, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg and Francis Hegerty were fifth in the same race but have pedigree, picking up Olympic and world championship silver medals. However, Great Britain remain favourites.

Overall, New Zealand's four gold medals and a bronze ranked them second behind Germany at last year's world championships in Poland. Australia's two silvers left them in a tie for 13th.

However, Rowing Australia structures its programme differently to New Zealand, with more athletes taking time off early in the Olympic cycle.

Generally the comparison between the nations has been similar in the six years since Athens. Significantly, Australia has had the upper hand at both 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Andrew Matheson used to work as high performance manager at Rowing New Zealand. He has now spent almost two years in a similar role at Australia's national centre for rowing excellence, based in Canberra - a hybrid organisation funded through the Australian Institute of Sport and Rowing Australia. Matheson is back at Karapiro this week.

He says there are other crews he has his eye on for medals: "Hopefully the men's eight - who got second at the last World Cup in Lucerne - and the quad, even though they didn't have a great race, getting fifth at the same event.

"The women's quad and double are also strong boats. The double of Kim Crow and Sally Kehoe also make up half the quad. It's not done that often, but they're great athletes who are seizing the opportunity to give both boats a shot."

Kehoe and Crow will be up against New Zealand's Fiona Paterson and Emma Feathery who raced in the quad earlier this year. Feathery won a bronze in the pair last year. Matheson sees them as an unknown quantity.

"I rated them both as athletes and individuals [when at Rowing New Zealand]."

Duncan Free is another enigma, racing the single sculls against Mahe Drysdale.

The 37-year-old was in the Olympic gold medal winning pair with Drew Ginn in Beijing.

Matheson says Free intended to partner former eight crew member Sam Conrad in the pair but Conrad was ruled out with niggling injuries.

"We still wanted to give Duncan a kick start into next year. He's in shape but maybe slightly short of a gallop.

"It's a solid field so a finals appearance would be a great effort. He hasn't raced the single internationally since 2003."