By Rhys Thomas
September 25 2011
Wales go into this game with the quarter-finals firmly in their sights. A clinical, convincing victory is needed ahead of the final pool game next week.
Wales should have no problem beating Namibia. The Bonus point should be in the bag, and we can look ahead to the Fiji game with the five points secured. What’s so important about this game then?
Simply put, squad rotation. Gatland is giving all the squad game-time, and resting key players. There will be a lot of pressure on Lee Byrne, he has not played at all well in the past couple of seasons and this could be a real opportunity to put his hand up for selection next week. This is a huge incentive for all players - Stephen Jones will win his 101st cap, and become the most capped Welsh player of all time. If Hook’s injury keeps him out, Jones would almost certainly be in the matchday squad.
It will also be good to see talented younger players such as Tavis Knoyle get an opportunity. He’s been playing well all season, and it’s important that he plays at this tournament, along with Scott Williams in the centres. This will also be great experience ahead of the 2015 World Cup – they will be well prepared for the big stage by then.
Injuries will also be a crucial part of this game. Wales do not want anymore injured key players after Hook, Lydiate and Shane. Players such as Warburton and Halfpenny will be crucial come the knockout stages. Wales cannot afford to play the big games with a lot of players out.
Pretty much the only competitive match up in this game will be the two captains going head to head. They’re both openside flankers, and are both shining figures for their countries. Sam Warburton v Jacques Burger, the young talent against the gnarled elder - an interesting test for the young Cardiff Blues star.
It will be very important to keep the momentum going. South Africa beat the Namibians 87-0, and we should be looking for a similar scoreline. Every match won builds confidence. We may need these players in later games, so they need to get involved in a proper match – and what better game to ease them in than against the men from South-West Africa.
PREDICTION: Wales to win by 53