Rugby World Cup preview - New Zealand vs. Namibia

This will be Namibia's first ever Test against New Zealand. Worryingly for Phil Davies' side, the All Blacks will be keen to improve on their under-cooked performance in their opening Pool C victory over Argentina at Wembley. Namibia, competing at their fifth World Cup, suffered a record tournament loss to Australia in 2003 when they went down 142-0 in Adelaide. At London's Olympic Stadium on Thursday, they will be determined to avoid a similar cricket score.

Team news

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has made 12 changes to the side that beat the Pumas, with only three players keeping the place in the starting XV. Sonny Bill Williams gets a start in Stratford, while impressive youngster Sam Cane will captain the side. Richie McCaw, who was yellow-carded against Argentina, drops to the bench alongside two other Test centurions -- Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu -- which is a record for a Rugby World Cup. Should McCaw come on, he will make his 18th World Cup appearance and break the record for most tournament appearances.

For Namibia, head coach Davies has named the most experienced Welwitschias side in World Cup history. Saracens star Jacques Burger captains a XV containing 299 caps and, along with Tinus du Plessis and Eugene Jantjies, will play in his third World Cup, equalling the team record shared by Hugo Horn, Herman Lintvelt, Deon Mouton and Heino Senekal and all-time leading cap holder Johnny Redelinghuys, However, Redelinghuys has not made Thursday's 23.

New Zealand:

Colin Slade, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Ben Franks, Codie Taylor, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Liam Messam, Sam Cane (captain), Victor Vito.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ma'a Nonu, Ben Smith


Johan Tromp, David Philander, JC Greyling, Johan Deysel, Conrad Marais, Theuns Kotze, Eugene Jantjies; Jaco Engels, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Johannes Coetzee, Tjiuee Uanivi, Pieter-Jan van Lill, Jacques Burger (captain), Tinus du Plessis, Leneve Damens.

Replacements: Louis van der Westhuizen, Casper Viviers, Raoul Larson, Renaldo Bothma, Janco Venter, Rohan Kitshoff, Eneill Buitendag, Chrysander Botha.

Key head-to-head

In front of Sunday's record crowd at Wembley, Sonny Bill Williams came on and changed the game for the All Blacks. The cross-code wing has been rewarded with a start and, given the space and time to do so, will make John Deysel's life a misery for 80 or so minutes. If New Zealand are to break that record win set by the Wallabies, Sonny Bill will be key in helping do so.

Key stats

*This will be the first ever Test match between the two nations. Of the 19 other nations playing at the World Cup, New Zealand have never faced three - Namibia, Georgia and Uruguay. They face Georgia in Cardiff next match.

*New Zealand have never lost a match in the pool stage at a World Cup - they've won 25 out of 25 group matches.

*Namibia have lost all 15 of their matches at a World Cup. Should they concede 26 points on Thursday, they will become the second team (after Japan) to concede 1000 points at a World Cup.


There is absolutely no value in a New Zealand win - so this is the game to take advantage of Unibet's Player Specials. You can get inviting odds of 33/25 for Sonny Bill Williams to score at least two tries in the match. Nehe Milner-Skuder to bag a hat trick is 33/20 with the same company.


Scattered showers are forecast throughout Thursday in Stratford, but the rain should clear up before the 8pm kick-off. Temperature should be around 13 degrees Celsius with a slight north-easterly wind.


There has been much talk of the All Blacks dishing out severe punishment and beating Australia's record win. While entirely possible, victories for both Japan and Georgia have energised the lower ranked nations against the big boys. It will be a big victory for New Zealand - probably by 100 points or so - but expect Namibia to defend at all costs.