Date: 26th September 2011
Time: 07:30 BST (19:30 NZST)
Venue: Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth
Referee: Steve Walsh (AUS)
After a narrow opening defeat and nervous win last week, Wales will be relieved that the World Cup schedule has afforded them a full week off and a fixture against the lowest ranked team prior to the tournament starting. Warren Gatland and his coaching team will for some time have most likely have been targeting this match as an opportunity to give fringe players in the Welsh squad a run out. With potentially Cup ending injuries to both James Hook and Dan Lydiate, the need to give some players game time and wrap others up in cotton wool, ahead of Fiji in a week’s time.
It would be very easy to chastise the poor performances of the Namibians in this years’ World Cup. Two fairly one-sided defeats to Pacific opposition and an absolute hammering at the hands of neighbours South Africa, have shown them to be out of their depth. However when put properly into context, those results can almost be viewed positively. The poor rugby infrastructure back home in Namibia, and a pair of back-to-back games out in New Zealand has meant that this was always going to be an up hill struggle for the minnows.
What to Expect:
Two tries in their two opening Rugby World Cup games has been a poor return for Wales, against a struggling Namibian side I expect the men in red find some needed width. Namibia did well to disrupt Ireland in France four years ago, but I can’t see them coping with the tempo Wales are capable of playing with.
All Eyes On:
Having almost been on the plane home from New Zealand due to injury, Ryan Jones’s return to the Welsh starting line-up could not be better timed. With Dan Lydiate’s future prospects in the tournament in the balance, the former captain’s first ever World Cup start could not be better timed.
In Namibian colours, Jacques Burger is the stand out name. The 27-year-old back rower has developed a reputation as one of the toughest players in the Aviva Premiership. The Welwitschias’ will be looking to their captain for a lot of inspiration, given that the likes of Kees Lensing and Heino Senekal have retired from test rugby.
Head-to-Head: Stephen Jones v Theuns Kotze
Scarlets fly-half Stephen Jones will become Wales most capped player ever, making his 101st appearance for his country against Namibia. Rhys Priestland has been guiding the ship over the last few matches, with Jones out of the side due to a combination of injury and Priestland’s good showings. Kotze meanwhile has shown that he has got a very impressive boot on him, hitting long range penalty kicks and drop goals with ease. If he can get his impressive back row of Du Plessis, Burger and Nieuwenhuis into the right spaces, then Namibia will cause Wales some problems.
Last fixture: Namibia 23 Wales 38, Windhoek, June 5, 1993
Weather Forecast: Light winds, with a chance of showers.
While it is always a dangerous game to write of the minnows, it is hard to see how the Namibians can regroup in the short time turnaround following their twelve try hammering on Thursday. Wales have rarely racked up large scores under Warren Gatland, but I can see the shackles finally coming off and a comfortable score developing. Wales by 40 points.
by Paul French