RWC: Match Preview: Wales – Namibia

Namibia line up for their last match of the World Cup in New Plymouth to face a buoyant Welsh squad that have impressed against quality opposition in Pool D so far. The Namibians were embarrassed last time out against neighbours South Africa, conceding 87 points without scoring in return, and the second tier nation have a tough four day turnaround to complicate matters further. Wales lost to the defending champions by just a single point in their first round clash, before dispatching a dangerous Samoan team 17-10; if the Welsh can score more than 53 points against the minnows of the pool – a task which they seem more than capable of achieving against a weary Namibian squad – they move into second place in the pool on point differential ahead of a crucial final pool match against Fiji.

Stephen Jones is set to start his first match of the tournament at fly-half; the sharpshooter will overtake Gareth Thomas as Wales’ most capped player in his 101st test but needs to hit the ground running to counter the emergence of the impressive young Rhys Preistland in his absence. Outside Jones the back-line differs significantly from Warren Gatland’s first choice line-up; at centre Jonathan Davies is the single survivor from the backs that faced Samoa as Wales rest their star men with an eye to Fiji and beyond. British Lions prop Gareth Jenkins will look to make up for lost time up front in his return from injury, one of four changes to the tight five; while former captain Ryan Jones makes his first start in the back row.

The core of the Namibian squad remains the same despite being forced to play four test matches in 16 days; Darryl de La Harpe replaces wing Heine Bock as an otherwise unchanged backline shuffles to accommodate the centre. The front row has been heavily modified, with 35 year old prop Jane du Toit and hooker Bertus O’Callaghan providing fresh faces in a pack that features no further changes. The Namibians lost heart against South Africa in a miserable second half, however; look for a raft of substitutes in their last game to ensure that history does not repeat.

Players to Watch:

Leigh Halfpenny needs an incisive performance to reclaim his spot off teenage prodigy George North; the livewire wing showed his class at fullback against Samoa and has run rings around more serious opposition in the past.

Chrysander Botha will benefit from the makeshift nature of the Welsh backline; the fullback looks a snappy runner and impressed going forward in New Zealand despite the level of quality around him.

Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Toby Faletau. 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Lloyd Burns, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Rhys Preistland, 22 George North.

Namibia: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Danie Van Wyk, 13 Piet Van Zyl, 12 Darryl De La Harpe, 11 Danie Dames, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 7 Jacques Burger (c), 6 Tinus Du Plessis, 5 Nico Esterhuyse, 4 Heinz Koll, 3 Jané Du Toit, 2 Hugo Horn, 1 Johnnie Redelinghuys.
Replacements: 16 Bertus O’Callaghan, 17 Raoul Larson, 18 Wacca Kazombiaze, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Ryan De La Harpe, 21 TC Losper, 22 David Philander.