After the hotly-anticipated opening match at Stade de France between hosts France and three-time champions New Zealand, Rugby World Cup action switches from Saint-Denis to the eastern city of Saint-Étienne, where Italy and Namibia meet for the second time in as many tournaments.
FIXTURE: Italy v Namibia
GROUND: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne (42,152)
KICK-OFF: 13:00 (GMT+2)
The two sides have met just once before in Rugby World Cups, in 2019. Then, as today in France, the match at Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiosaka, was the two sides’ first outing in Japan.
Italy would win in the rain at the oldest stadium in Japan specifically dedicated to rugby – but Namibia, nicknamed the Welwitschias after the country’s national symbol – won over more than a few fans with their gutsy performance.
The sides shared 10 tries in their only previous meeting, in the RWC 2019 Pool B match in Higashiosaka. The Six Nations side may have scored seven of them in the pouring rain, but Namibia won hearts and minds with a determined performance.
In fact, they had the first and last word, scoring the opening and final try to delight the 20,000-plus crowd in a match that finished 47-22.
KEY TALKING POINT
The big question in this tournament for Namibia is whether they can, finally, pick up a win. They have played 22 matches, with one match cancelled in Japan, in six tournaments to date. Their best result is a 16-15 loss against Georgia in 2015. This may not be their match, but they also play Uruguay in Pool A.
Giacomo Nicotera v Torsten van Jaarsveld. The powerful Italian who never takes a backward step goes head to head against the experienced Namibian, who also doesn’t know the meaning of reverse in what’s expected to be a huge front row contest at Stade de Marseille. Namibian van Jaarsveld – who occasionally slots into the back row – knows where the tryline is, too. Expect fireworks.
Italy’s Sergio Parisse, then 36, became only the third player to take part in five World Cups, after former Azzurri team-mate Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan Brian Lima, when he started against Namibia in Japan four years ago.
It turned out to be the penultimate of his 142 international caps. A hoped-for send off against New Zealand was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.
Andrew Brace (Ireland). Former Belgium international Brace was an assistant in Japan four years ago, but he is one of four officials making their debuts as a central match referee in France.
ITALY: Tommaso Allan; Ange Capuozzo, Juan Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari; Dino Lamb, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (captain), Lorenzo Cannone
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Ivan Nemer, Marco Riccioni, David Sisi, Manuel Zuliani, Martin Page-Relo, Paolo Odogwu, Pierre Bruno
NAMIBIA: Divan Rossouw; Gerswin Mouton, Johan Deysel (captain), Danco Burger, JC Greyling; Tiaan Swanepoel, Damian Stevens; Desiderius Sethie, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Johan Coetzee; Adriaan Ludick, Tjiuee Uanivi; Wian Conradie, Johan Retief, Richard Hardwick
Replacements: Louis van der Westhuizen, Jason Benade, Casper Viviers, Tiaan De Klerk, Prince Gaoseb, Jacques Theron, Andre van der Bergh, Le Roux Malan