After a tough opening win against Argentina the All Blacks will now focus all their energy on Namibia, regarded as one of the minnows of this World Cup.
Namibia have a couple of excellent players. Their skipper Jacques Berger is a regular starter for England club champions Saracens and would be a dead cert pick in almost every World Cup team. Torsten Van Jaarsfeld, their hooker is also an experienced campaigner playing for the Cheetahs in Super 15. Generally though, the majority of their side play club rugby for second or third tier sides so this should be a walk in the park for New Zealand.
Steve Hansen and co. will want to be ruthless against Namibia. This will be a perfect chance to blow out the cobwebs and get some real confidence back into the All Blacks machine after a rusty performance against Argentina. We will likely see Sonny Bill Williams start after his impact off the bench against the Argentinians and Barrett may slot in at 10 for his first start in that position for the test year.
Steve Hansen will rest the majority of his senior men with the likes of Dane Coles, Sam Whitelock, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Aaron Smith and Conrad Smith taking a seat in what will be somewhat of a second string side to the one that ran out onto Wembley.
This writer would like to see Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina pack down with Kevin Mealamu in the front row. In the second row this writer’s predicting Romano and Rettalick to team up with Liam Messam as captain and Cane combining with Vito to finish off the pack.
Into the backs, and this writer’s predicting that the Hurricanes duo of Barrett and Perenara will get a chance to run the cutter. In the midfield it would be great to see a powerhouse combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu team up, allowing them game time together incase Conrad Smith falls over later in the competition.
The back three setup for this game will likely see the selectors include Colin Slade at fullback. There’s no real point in playing the Crusaders flyhalf in this position as this writer doesn’t see Slade featuring in the latter stages of the tournament as an outside back reserve. He lacks the power and pace to beat a man one-on-one, so for this reason this writer would have Slade on the bench and Fekitoa as a right wing option untill Nahalo fully recovers.
With that statement, this writer’s back three for Namibia would be Savea, Fekitoa and Skudder in what will be an exciting threesome.
A predicted All Blacks 23 for the Namibia game:
1. Wyatt Crockett 2. Kevin Mealamu 3. Charlie Faumuina 4. Brodie Rettalick 5. Luke Romano 6. Liam Messam (c) 7. Sam Cane 8. Victor Vito 9. TJ Perenara 10. Beauden Barrett 11. Julian Savea 12. Sonny Bill Williams 13. Ma’a Nonu 14. Malakai Fekitoa 15. Nehe Milner Skudder
Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor 17. Ben Franks 18. Owen Franks 19. Jerome Kaino 20. Kieran Read 21. Tawera Kerr Barlow 22. Colin Slade 23. Ben Smith
Who makes your starting side vs Namibia?
Simon van Ryn, Pundit Arena