France and New Zealand gear up for Rugby World Cup ‘minnow’ matches

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Host nation France and New Zealand are preparing for pool matches against so-called minnow nations at the Rugby World Cup.  New Zealand face Namibia on Friday night, while France fronts up against Uruguay in Lille later this evening. Both sides have cautioned against taking the smaller rugby nations lightly.

The All Blacks come into their match against Namibia off the back of defeats to South Africa in a warm-up match and then France in the opening match of the 2023 World Cup. Friday’s match against Namibia will not solve all the Kiwis’ problems but coach Ian Foster says it is important to get what they need out of this type of match.

“World Cups are about making sure that games like this, we’ve obviously got a job to do in terms of getting a result, and we’ve also got to make sure that we go out and express ourselves and play the game we want to play,” says Foster.

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock is set to win his 148th cap and match the great Richie McCaw’s record.

Foster says that fact alone will keep his side focused against Namibia.

“It’s a massive occasion for Sam and for us as a team. He’s been sort of a warrior for this team for obviously a long time, and to equal someone like Richie, test matches for the All Blacks, is a massive achievement. So, we all know how much it means for him to pull on a black jersey, and to do it for the 148th time is a very special occasion.”

Meanwhile, the French team to face Uruguay in Lille later tonight shows 12 changes from the side that beat New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament. French team manager, Raphael Ibanez, however, stressed that it is no indication that Les Bleus are not fully focused on Uruguay, a team he says is full of seasoned campaigners.

They’re great players. they are players who will give everything for their shirt and for this team that they defend so strongly. it’s also a team with a lot of collective experience, as most of the players in this squad were already part of the 2019 World Cup adventure.”

As the hosts, France will be under scrutiny from their rugby-loving public, a fact that will inevitably be amplified by the fact that Les Bleus have never won the World Cup, beaten three times in the final. France hooker Pierre Bourgarit says his team knows how much is at stake against Uruguay.

“We would have a lot to lose by looking down on them and not respecting them. So we’re going to prepare for this match in all simplicity, as we usually do before any match.”

After the dizzying high of beating New Zealand, France has to remain focused against Uruguay and then Namibia, before a six-nations clash against Italy in October to finish off the pool stages.