Wales will expected to bag a full house of points against a battle-weary Namibian side in their World Cup Pool D clash in New Plymouth on Monday.
Having featured on the second day of the tournament, Namibia will be the first team to complete their pool fixtures, almost a week ahead of Fiji, against whom they kicked off their campaign.
A lot has been said and written about the unfair schedules dealt to the tier-two nations at the World Cup, and while their is no obvious solution, few will dispute that the Welwitschias have been give the worst deal. By the final whistle on Monday, they would have played as many Tests against top-level sides in 16 days as they have in the four years since the last World Cup!
After being on the receiving end of 80-minute-long hiding at the hands of the Springboks, Namibia have been given just three days to lick their wounds before facing the side that came within whisker of upsetting the defending champions.
Indeed, it’s clear we have another mismatch on our hands and anything less than a bonus point win will be considered a massive failure for the Welsh, who need all five points in their race with Samoa for second place in the Pool.
The history books don’t offer much help for forecasters as these teams have not met in the last 18 years but their respective records at this World Cup point in one direction.
Wales will essentially use the game as preparation for the showdown with Fiji next Sunday, but coach Warren Gatland insists that his side are not getting head of themselves.
“We are not taking Namibia lightly in any way,” said Gatland.
“A lot of thought has gone into this selection looking at potential combinations.
“And we are also giving a few experienced players the opportunity to come back into the side and to stake a claim for selection against Fiji.
“I spoke to the players at training (on Saturday) morning and I said to them it is important that individually and collectively they go out and make a statement on Monday night.
“For those players who take the field on Monday night it is important that they put us coaches and selectors under pressure so they are in contention for the game against Fiji.
“That is only going to be by a good performance. If they don’t perform and it is a rusty display, then some of those selections are going to be easier against Fiji.”
We should have an open game as the Namibians have promised to play positive rugby.
“We don’t want to play a slow game. We want to play with the ball, and we’ve not been doing that. Whenever we have the ball we don’t look bad,” said skipper Jacques Burger.
“We don’t have these chances. It is not making excuses, but it’s our fourth real Test in four years at this level.”
It’ll be a memorable day for fly-half Stephen Jones, who will set a new appearance record for Wales when he wins his 101st cap.
Nine players will make their first World Cup starts for Wales in a new-look side - Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny, Scott Williams, Aled Brew, Tavis Knoyle, Lloyd Burns, Craig Mitchell, Bradley Davies and Ryan Jones.
Wales have never played a Test match in New Plymouth but all expectations are that they will leave Stadium Taranaki with happy memories.
Players to watch:
For Wales: Prop Gethin Jenkins will make his first Test start since last November. Most other players in his situation would not have made the cut for World Cup selection but Jenkins is a vital cog in the Welsh machine. The Welsh coaching staff will be eager to see him put in a strong 80 minutes as his experience and power could be influential in the potential quarter-final against Ireland in Wellington.
For Namibia: At 35,Jane Du Toit is the oldest player to represent Namibia at the World Cup and starts at prop in what has been billed as his farewell match. Also keep an eye on full-back Chrysander Botha, who put in a few scorching runs against Fiji.
Head-to-head: Namibia’s top player Jacques Burger is set for real tussle against former Wales skipper Ryan Jones, who will be looking to force his way back into the first-choice team.
1993: Wales won 38-23 in Windhoek
1990: Wales won 34-30 in Windhoek
1990: Wales won 18- 9 in Windhoek
Prediction: Namibia have conceded 185 points in three games to South Africa and also Samoa and Fiji, that’s an average of just under 62. We’ll go for Wales by 65 points.
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 (capt), 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.
Date: Monday, September 26
Kick-off: 19:30 (07:30 GMT)
Venue: Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth
Weather: Cloudy but dry. Max 13°C, min 6°C
Referee: Steve Walsh (AUS)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (IRE); Carlo Damasco (ITA)