6 May 2016

Kiwis put number one ranking on the line

9:13 am on 6 May 2016

The focus will return to the field for rugby league tonight when New Zealand and Australia play a one-off test in Newcastle.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney Photo: Photosport

The banning of three Warriors players from playing in the match because of a night out involving prescription drugs and energy drinks, and the Parramatta Eels rorting of the NRL salary cap have dominated the headlines in recent days.

The Kiwis go into tonight's match ranked number one in the world, after winning their last three tests against the Kanagaroos.

But the New Zealanders are anything but favourites, with suspension and medical issues taking their toll.

The build-up to this match has been overshadowed by the banning of Warriors Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino and Bodene Thompson - the trio missing the match after a night out where they mixed prescription medication and energy drinks.

Vatuvei is now on medical leave from the club.

Also missing from the Kiwis are Parramatta Eels playmaker Kieran Foran, who has also been placed on leave for personal reasons after overdosing on prescription medication, and Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who has been struggling with ligament damage to his foot.

Kieran Foran

Kiwis playmaker Kieran Foran is missing from tonight's ANZAC Test Photo: PHOTOSPORT

However, Kearney refused to concede any pre-game defeat, despite having an under strength side.

"We haven't spent a great deal of time on who we don't have here it's the boys we do have here and they've adapted really well. Couple of new faces into camp, yea it's been really good preparation for us."

And Kearney may have good reason, as the Kangaroos have had problems of their own too.

After a hat trick of losses to New Zealand, the Australians have a new coach in Queensland league great Mal Meninga.

Meninga has made no secret of the fact he wants to bring the passion back to the green and gold jersey and captain Cameron Smith is aware there is a lack of interest in the test among Australian league fans.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney and Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich at the captain's run press conference ahead of the 2016 ANZAC Test.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney and Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich at the captain's run press conference ahead of the 2016 ANZAC Test. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"We need to be playing well and hopefully winning to regain more of that support from the public. We haven't won a trophy for a while now, the last one being the World Cup (2013) and the guys that have been here a long time are quite disappointed with that record."

Tonight's spectacle is not just about the men, as the event is being touted as a double header with the New Zealand and Australian women's teams playing first.

Kiwi Ferns captain Sarina Fiso said after last year's Anzac Test loss to the Jillaroos, her side were determined to right the wrongs of 2015.

But she said tonight's match was as much about growth in the women's game as it was about winning.

"The girls are really excited to be a part of this, it's definitely going to lift our profile back home. We've increased the numbers already with the Nines and this is just going to bring more numbers to the game and that's something we need back home."