Wales run through options
September 24, 2011
Stephen Jones is ready to spring into action for Wales © Getty Images
Wales will look to rack-up a healthy bonus-point win and avoid any serious injuries when they face Namibia in Pool D in New Plymouth on Monday.
Following victory over Samoa in Hamilton on Sunday, Wales will finish runners up of Pool D should they prevail against Namibia and Fiji in their final two games of the group stages - and South Africa complete their 100% run in the Pool.
The prospect of picking up more injuries - Dan Lydiate and James Hook are already causing the Welsh management concerns -will be of greatest anxiety for Wales. That and the opportunity to give squad players a run-out is why Warren Gatland has rung the changes.
While other "minnows" have produced some strong performances and really pushed some of the favourites, Namibia have yet to fire in the tournament so far. The Namibians conceded 49 points in both of their opening two matches against Fiji and Samoa, before going down 87-0 against South Africa.
Namibia - Player to Watch: Despite limited opportunities from fullback Chrysander Botha was most impressive Namibia's most impressive attacker against the Springboks making 48 metres and beating a number of defenders.
Namibia - Team News: Hooker Hugo Horn and tight-head prop Jane Du Toit come into the front-row for Bertus O'Callaghan and Marius Visser, while there is one new face behind the scrum, though the inclusion of Darryl De La Harpe prompts a back-line reshuffle. Piet Van Zyle switches to outside centre to accommodate the new arrival and that sees Danie Van Wyk move out to the left wing, Danie Dames swap flanks and Heini Bock drop out.
Wales - Player to Watch: Stephen Jones will become Wales' most capped international when he runs out to win his 101th cap against Namibia. And yet he still faces an all-mighty battle to regain the No.10 jersey for the knock-out stages after Rhys Priestland's impressive induction to the international arena.
Wales - Team News: Warren Gatland makes 11 changes to Wales' starting XV with only centre Jonathan Davies, lock Alun-Wyn Jones, skipper Sam Warburton and No.8 Toby Faletau retaining their places. Fly-half Stephen Jones and back-row forward Ryan Jones both return after recovering from calf muscle injuries.
Key Battle: Tinus Du Plessis was one of Namibia's better performers against the Springboks, but he along with rest of the Namibia back-row face another fierce confrontation as they take on an in-form Welsh back-row. The addition of Ryan Jones, who has plenty to prove in his first start of the tournament, will only make it tougher on the Namibians.
Trivia: In three previous meetings between the nations Wales have never had a bigger winning margin than 15 points.
Stats: Stephen Jones is 160 points behind Neil Jenkins in Wales' highest points scorer in international rugby rankings.
"Namibia will be hurting after their loss to South Africa, but we will be concentrating on ourselves and our own performance. This is the World Cup, and every performance counts." - Wales coach Warren Gatland savours the meeting with Pool D minnows Namibia.
""I really believe that this side is much better than we are playing at the moment. Because we do play good at times, we do look good at times. We're just not putting it together." - Namibia skipper Jacques Burger believes his side can peak in their final match against Wales.
Prediction: Wales' second-string to ruthlessly run through Namibia following a stuttering start from the Welsh. Lee Byrne, Stephen Jones and Leigh Halfpenny to give Gatland some welcome selection options.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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