Toulouse: New Zealand will bid to bounce back from their opening World Cup defeat by hosts France with a resounding victory over Pool A minnows Namibia in Toulouse on Friday.
The All Blacks went down 27-13 to the French, but have rung the changes for the clash against the Africans.
Lock Samuel Whitelock has been named for what will be his 148th All Blacks Test, equalling Richie McCaw as the most-capped player in the team’s history.
Only Alun Wyn Jones of Wales, with 171, has made more international appearances than Whitelock and McCaw.
“We are expecting a very tough Namibian side to test us on Friday,” said All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
“Whilst we were disappointed with the result in the first round, it hasn’t moved our focus from what we need to do to in our pool games.
“This game is vital for us to grow and we can’t wait to get to Toulouse and test ourselves.”
The All Blacks and Namibia have played each other twice before, with both fixtures having taken place at the Rugby World Cup: New Zealand ran out 58-14 winners in 2015 and 71-9 victors four years ago in Japan.
Whitelock is one of nine changes to the All Blacks side.
“We had a plan on how we want to approach this and we have had to adapt that based on injuries and who is coming back but we are pretty satisfied that we have to rebound from round one. It is a key game for us to get right and we’ve selected accordingly,” said Foster.
“We certainly have got a couple of areas we really want to focus on and I’m probably not going to share what they are just yet.”
Whitelock is one of six players retained by coach Ian Foster for the game in Toulouse from the team that lost to France last Friday.
The others are Ardie Savea, who will captain the side, Beauden Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown, Dalton Papali’i and Nepo Laulala.
Namibia, meanwhile, have made three changes from the team that lost 52-8 to Italy in their opener.
Jason Benade comes in at hooker, Prince Gaoseb at flanker and Le Roux Malan in the centre while Richard Hardwick switches to No. 8 for the game at the Stadium de Toulouse.
Namibia’s defeat by Italy was their 23rd straight loss at the World Cup. The only game they have not lost was an encounter with Canada four years ago, cancelled because of a typhoon.
“The Italy game was a big challenge for us, especially in the set-piece. Hopefully it will be better,” said Namibia coach Allister Coetzee.
“We have to throw more punches. New Zealand is a top nation. Our plan is to stop the momentum and break their rhythm.
“We knew it was a tough pool,” said ex-Springbok coach Coetzee.
“It is not scary but we really get excited about it. New Zealand are taking this game seriously. It is good for the competition. It is a great opportunity for our players.”