Kangaroos forward Tyson Frizell believes the emergence of young players like Briton Nikora, Joseph Manu and Brandon Smith has helped New Zealand to quickly recover from the defection of players to Tonga during the 2017 World Cup.
After being eliminated at the quarter final stage of the World Cup by Fiji, the Kiwis stunned Australia in Auckland at the end of last season and beat Tonga 34-14 in June's Oceania Cup clash at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Kangaroos will commence their Oceania Cup campaign against New Zealand as part of a double-header with the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns at WIN Stadium on October 25 before meeting Tonga at Eden Park on November 2.
Frizell, who will come up against Nikora in Sunday's clash between the Dragon and Sharks at Pointsbet Stadium, said the Cronulla strike second-rower had helped fill the gap left by the loss of key forwards Jason Taumalo, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Manu Ma'u to Tonga.
Nikora made his Test debut for New Zealand in the Oceania Cup fixture, which also featured the reuniting of Sharks five-eighth Shaun Johnson and Wests Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall as the Kiwis halves.
"He is in good form and with the ex-New Zealand players who have gone to play for Tonga or Samoa, that has left a little gap for the Kiwis to blood some good young talent," Frizell said.
"They have bought in some quality players and all the Kiwi boys are playing good footy at the moment so I am sure they will pick a strong side at the end of the year."
Manu and Smith made their Test debuts against Australia last October and the pair were among New Zealand's best as the Kiwis upset the world champions 26-24 at Mt Smart Stadium.
Since taking over the New Zealand coaching job last year, Michael Maguire has blooded 13 debutants in Tests against Australia, England or Tonga.
Maguire, the Wests Tigers coach, has also recalled Marshall and veteran prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, as well as senior forwards Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor who were stood down from the World Cup over cocaine allegations in Canberra after the 2017 Anzac Test.
"No matter what team they put out, they have a quality side and no matter who the Kiwis pick you know that when they put on the New Zealand jersey and represent their country and their family they are going to turn up," Frizell said.
"Bringing the likes of Benji back and partnering him in the halves with Shaun Johnson was good for them and great for the players coming through. They would have been idols for them back in the day."
Frizell said the Kiwis would benefit from playing together on last year's end-of-season tour to England and the Oceania Cup Test against Tonga but he was confident Australia would turn on a good performance in Wollongong.
"Anytime you put Australia against New Zealand there is no easy games," Frizell said. "They jumped us in that game last year and we didn't get to play them mid-season but we saw what they produced against Tonga so for us it is about doing the best we can for Australia.
"To hopefully get the chance to put on the green and gold jersey and play New Zealand at home will be a special moment and we have always had great support here in Wollongong so hopefully we can get the win."