Wallabies coach Dave Rennie thinks the quality of Australian rugby has improved this season but still believes it is vital that the players get to face NZ Super Rugby opposition this year.
Plans for a trans-Tasman Sea Super Rugby competition in May and June are reliant on a travel bubble opening up between New Zealand and Australia, a move that has been slow in coming.
While Rennie thinks the Super Rugby AU clash between Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies two weeks ago was on a par with the quality of contests in his homeland, he is still keen for younger players to get a taste of NZ rugby in the raw.
"I think it's a step up from what we saw last year and certainly I think the athletes are better conditioned already, skillsets are better," he said of Super Rugby AU on Thursday.
"But I think it's essential we play against NZ sides and get an understanding of the intensity and the skillsets that they play with.
"Hopefully that happens ... it'd be a good indicator for us as to where we're at."
Rennie conceded at the end of his first season in charge last year that Australia still had a long way to go to be competitive at the elite level in test rugby.
France are scheduled to play three tests in Australia in July and although COVID-19 concerns mean the tour has not yet been confirmed, Rennie is confident it will happen.
"They're certainly keen to come here and we're certainly keen to play," he added.
"I predicted they'd win Six Nations ... they've got amazing depth, a number of players who are the best in the world at their position.
"The French comp has really benefited from a lot of experienced southern hemisphere players going up there. I know a few years ago they were critical of too many coming in, but ... they've got some good depth and high quality."
Rennie will announce a training squad of 40 players on Sunday and, even after he completely overhauled the team last year, suggested there would be some new faces as he looks ahead to the 2023 World Cup.
"We're certainly trying to get an understanding of who we think might be in mix (in 2023)," he said. "And then the idea would be to bring them in earlier and blood them over the next few years.
"I think that's really important, that we've got a good idea of the future."