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Jeff Wilson picks the All Blacks with the most to prove against Namibia

By Ned Lester
Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie at All Blacks training. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

A hurting All Blacks team has traditionally been a dangerous All Blacks team, and given the pain of a record loss to the Springboks failed to produce a win against France, New Zealand now turn to Namibia.

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Having put 70 points on the Welwitschias at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, expectations are for another heavy victory for the Kiwis.

The men charged with delivering that win are – outside of the hookers – the same forward pack as round one, just reshuffled throughout the 23. The backline is entirely different.

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With much of the emphasis on the forward pack in recent losses, former All Black Jeff Wilson sees that as the key area for improvement in round two.

“A few guys, particularly up front, I think for Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala, they should dominate this game,” Wilson told Sky Sport NZ.

“Samisoni Taukei’aho as well. The fact that this experienced front row, the size of that front row should have a real impact on this game.

“They’ve got plenty engine room behind them in terms of their locks, I mean world-class, that combination is back together again in Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.

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“so, I don’t think for this forward pack, particularly the tight five, there are any excuses for me. They should go out and dominate and set a platform that this backline, which has got all sorts of talent – you see the return of Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Beauden Barrett should get some sort of front foot ball to work off.

“I don’t think there are any excuses for the group now, with all that experience, they have to perform.”

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Set piece penalties have been a theme of recent outings for New Zealand, a red card to lock Scott Barrett not helping things against South Africa.

Injuries to the team’s two starting flankers, Shannon Frizell and Sam Cane, have tested the loose forward depth and handed the young Tupou Vaa’i and Dalton Papali’i some extended minutes.

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Vaa’i has been named on the bench for the Namibia Test alongside Scott Barrett, making for no specialist loose forward cover.

Ethan Blackadder touched down in Lyon this week, joining the team as an injury replacement for Emoni Narawa but won’t feature just yet.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

4
Wins
1
3
Streak
1
19
Tries Scored
4
87
Points Difference
-156
5/5
First Try
2/5
3/5
First Points
3/5
4/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

While Wilson put the onus on the tight five, his fellow former All Black and pundit Mils Muliaina pointed elsewhere when selecting who needs to put in a big shift against Namibia.

“I think there’s no excuses in terms of our tight five,” he said. “But for me, really, it’s Damian McKenzie.

“I think it’s his game to try and shine. If it was me, I’d put him back to fullback by the end of the game and give him that opportunity”

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Comments

6 Comments
C
CT 312 days ago

Namibia has got this one.

B
Billy 312 days ago

The fact that Nepo and Ofa are in the RWC squad is the biggest sign on how far back is from the front-runners. These two are penalty magnets, do very little in the loose and yet cannot hold against the best in the scrums. My ways of saying that there's nothing they add. At least De Groot is a tackling machine and gainline monster. And Lomax is both those things but can also scrum ...

D
Dave 312 days ago

Trouble is both offa and nepo need to step up big time, not something I've seen either do for quite a while. Interesting to see what sort of impact D Groot and Newel have when they come on.

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