Red cards, ref inconsistencies, electric crowds and scorching heats summed up day fourteen of the Rugby World Cup. Again the results went as we expected with Australia, England and Japan (fantastic game) picking up the wins. Onto day Fifteen there is just two matches to look forward to with New Zealand back in action against Namibia, very quickly after facing Canada in Pool B. Then out of Pool C, France will look to meet the pace set by England in their fixture the day before. We are getting into the final week of pool play where teams just cannot afford to slip up. How will these matches play out….?
New Zealand vs Namibia – Pool B
The All Blacks have gone full on rotate mode for this match against Namibia, just days after taking on Canada. Take a quick scan of the starting lineup and one thing will most likely stand out more than any others. Number ten – Jordie Barrett. You read that right, Steve Hansen has been building the New Zealand public and media up for this for quite some time, speaking about how, at a stretch, he could cover up the fly half role. Now we will see just how well. He doesn’t have either other brother in the 23 named so we won’t see Barrett to Barrett to Barrett situations this time. Once you have got over Jordie Barrett at ten, you will see Brodie Retallick back into the second row two games sooner than was expected after his pre-world cup injury. His return will boost the squad and if he can make his way through forty minutes or more of work, the All Blacks will happily take the positive.
Namibia faced the All Blacks four years ago in London during pool play of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and on that day recorded a 14-58 defeated to the eventual champions. Over half of that Namibian side that faced the All Blacks four years ago, will face them again on day fifteen. The experience will do them well and having players who know what to expect will allow them to settle into the game quicker. Are they expected to trouble the defending champions? Not at all. But what what they gain from this fixture? Just as much as most of their fixtures so far. Small targets, matching up with the best teams in the world to measure yourself. Captain Johan Deysel was there four years ago and will be an important part of this game. JC Greyling and Johan Tromp has games to remember in 2015 and could prove troublesome members again. All together for Namibia, another big occasion to treasure for these players and a big part of what makes this World Cup so great. If they can match up in any department to the All Blacks, it will be targets met and hopefully they can keep it respectful at the end of 80 minutes.
RESULT = New Zealand by 44
France vs Tonga – Pool C
The first thing that springs to my mind when I read this fixture is 2011 Rugby World Cup, where the Tongans sprung a huge shock taking France down in New Zealand. The chances of that happening again? The way this World Cup is going, never take a result for granted. France have look pretty nice so far in patches off and on throughout, which has been enough to get them the results. They have gone back to the youngsters in the halves with Baptiste Serin and Romain Ntamack taking control control of the French backline. Talking about this French backline, it is what concerns me about them, the performances of Alivereti Raka on the left wing has seen moments of brilliance but also of lack of ability to keep switched on and follow up plays and stay in the game. I expect France to be all over this game and run all over the Tongans by the players that suit their game, Sofiane Guitoune, Damian Penaud and Maxime Medard.
It’s been a disappointing World Cup for Tonga, aside from pushing Argentina in the second half of their clash there has not been much for them to celebrate. One man who has made a statement for himself over the tournament is flanker Zane Kapeli who defensive hits have been a highlight for Tonga. What they have struggled with is clicking on attack, James Faiva looked accomplished once he got into the game against Argentina and needs to grow from that. If Faiva can find some room and get some space for David Halaifonua and Cooper Vuna out wide, we could see some fireworks. France will gift the opportunities to counter if Tonga want them. Hopefully no cards and some entertaining attacking rugby which both these sides should bring.
RESULT = France by 26
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