Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s coverage of tonight’s Pool A clash between France and Namibia at Stade de Marseille.
France got their World Cup campaign under way with a statement 27-13 victory over New Zealand at a sold-out Stade de France on the opening night but followed up with a less than convincing performance against Uruguay in which they led by just one point until the 55th minute.
The host’s lack-lustre display drew plenty of criticism, not least from the players themselves, with lock Cameron Woki labelling his team’s showing as “unacceptable”.
Perhaps with that in mind, France head coach Fabien Galthié has recalled his big guns for tonight’s showdown, making 12 changes to the side who stumbled to victory last week.
These sides have met twice before at the World Cup, the most recent of which was in 2007, also in France, when Les Bleues put down their biggest points margin in World Cup history, winning 87-10. Any improvement on that result tonight should be considered a good showing for Namibia.
They come into tonight’s clash having conceded 123 points and 18 tries in their two World Cup matches so far against Italy and New Zealand, managing only one try and 11 points in reply.
But despite their score difference, the Welwitschias gave Italy a good run for their money before running out of steam to lose 52-8. Faced with the all-powerful All Blacks, it was a more one-sided affair.
Namibia have made nine changes to the side that faced New Zealand as coach Allister Coetzee looks to give his wider squad a taste of the tournament in this “special occasion”.
“It’s important to give every player coming to a World Cup an opportunity to play,” Coetzee told reporters. “Our mindset is building towards the last game [against Uruguay] and to see what these players can offer to get the best team possible for that final match.
“It is a great experience for a lot of youngsters playing in their first World Cup. One of our objectives is to grow depth in our squad, especially against tier one nations who we don’t get to play often.”
“They have selected a very strong side against us. Someone like Antoine Dupont, we see him playing on television a lot, for so Jacques Theron to get his first start for Namibia against him is a special occasion.”
Speaking ahead of tonight’s clash, France back row Charles Ollivon said: “We are building and must give 100 per cent to do the things we have worked on the whole week, be clear in our game and clear on what we are doing.
“There is some pressure [to put in a strong performance]. We need to play, [most of these players] didn’t play last week, so we are happy to be back.”