Preview: New Zealand v Namibia

Date published: September 23 2015

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As expected, New Zealand have rotated their XV for their second pool game against Namibia at Olympic Park on Thursday. It is not second string.

Namibia will be no match for the quality on show as many stars of the recent Super Rugby campaign get their first start of the tournament. In come the likes of Hurricanes duo TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa and young Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor.

Just to be safe they have 660 caps sitting on the bench (average 83) and also three centurions (Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Richie McCaw).

It is almost unfair.

No one will disagree that New Zealand, at this stage, are the best equipped and fortunate with their pool to go all the way to World Cup glory. Upcoming fixtures against Namibia and Georgia should be cakewalks before they take on Tonga in their finale, with progression already assured.

Boxes to be ticked on Thursday will be tries on the board for Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder and solid games from their back-up centres and half-backs. Savea is set to be given plenty of minutes to build his confidence and form before the knockouts so he will hope to make each one count. Should he not recapture his top form, pressure will be applied by Waisake Naholo who continues his miraculous recovery from injury in the camp. Expect him to feature next week.

New Zealand's opener against Argentina was always going to be a tough task and many other nations would have struggled to unlock the Pumas. In fact, when it comes to win-or-bust in the knockout stages, Argentina's game-plan could come into its own so rule them out against no one.

What was impressive from New Zealand last week was their calmness even when behind as they displayed great confidence in their ability to get the job done, which will come as real comfort to their fans. Maybe this group having already won a World Cup has taken away any nervousness from their game.

Their bench also offered plenty, notably Sonny Bill Williams and Charlie Faumuina, whose return to action cannot be understated. It had looked like Nepo Laulala was set to make the plane after a strong Rugby Championship but patience in Faumuina seems to have paid off as his carrying and ball skills at Wembley were second to none.

Namibia therefore have their work cut out and will look to be solid early on and maybe frustrate an All Blacks side looking to push their case for selection at the business end. Of course Jacques Burger will lead by example but anything other than a New Zealand cruise would be a big shock. Don't expect them to do a Japan.

Ones to watch:

For New Zealand: Plenty to choose from in this section as the likes of Codie Taylor, TJ Perenara and Malakai Fekitoa stand out. However, we focus on the decision maker for the All Blacks this Thursday as Sam Cane is given the captaincy. Possibly the most patient player in rugby, Cane had bided his time behind Richie McCaw for what has felt like an eternity and to make him skipper for this game is richly deserved.

For Namibia: Opposing captain Jacques Burger's reputation is well known. An abrasive, all-action player who has little regard for his body, the lengths Burger went to be fit for games with Saracens in 2014 were incredible as he iced his knee eight times a day. Namibia will need all of his steel and hunger in this fixture as they are set to make plenty of tackles. Excuse the pun but Burger will relish the physical.

Head-to-head: Tell Codie Taylor in January 2015 that he would be playing at Olympic Park in London in a Rugby World Cup game and even he might have laughed. Sat behind Ben Funnell at both Canterbury and the Crusaders, the 24-year-old was also trailing Hika Elliot in New Zealand's pecking order so to join Dane Coles and Keven Mealamu on the plane was some achievement. On Thursday he faces experienced campaigner Torsten van Jaarsveld. The Cheetahs hooker is a hard-working player whose time as a flanker has definitely added qualities to his game.

Recent results:

First meeting between the sides

Prediction: We're not expecting the kiwis to hit 100 as Namibia have improved of late and will defend admirably. All Blacks by 65!

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Tony Woodcock, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Ma'a Nonu, 23 Ben Smith.

Namibia: 15 Johan Tromp, 14 David Philander, 13 JC Greyling, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Conrad Marais, 10 Theuns Kotzè, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Leneve Damens, 7 Tinus du Plessis, 6 Jacques Burger (capt), 5 Pieter-Jan van Lill, 4 Tjiuee Uanivi, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Casper Viviers, 18 Raoul Larson, 19 Renaldo Bothma, 20 Janco Venter, 21 Rohan Kitshoff, 22 Eneill Buitendag, 23 Chrysander Botha.

Date: Thursday, September 24
Venue: The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
Kick-off: 20:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Mathieu Raynal (France)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)

By Adam Kyriacou

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