Rugby World Cup: All Blacks on unknown ground against Namibia after opening defeat by France

After an opening World Cup defeat to France, the All Blacks are now treading unfamiliar territory, as they prepare for a fixture that would usually offer little fear in the greater scheme of things.

Namibia have attended six previous tournaments, but are yet to record a win in 22 games. They have faced the All Blacks twice at the World Cup, losing 58-14 at London in 2015 and 71-9 at Tokyo four years later.

In 2019, coach Sir Steve Hansen started Jordie Barrett at first-five for the first - and so far, only - time in his international career and named three specialist halfbacks, with TJ Perenara replacing Barrett off the bench late in the contest.

All Blacks reflect on opening defeat to France.
All Blacks reflect on opening defeat to France. Photo credit: Photosport

Namibia don't look any more competitive this time around, losing 52-8 to Italy in their opener.

In short, this is a game the All Blacks should win with one hand tied behind their back - but that French loss has changed everything.

"We're really disappointed to lose... in fact, we're really gutted," confirmed assistant coach Jason Ryan. "It was a test match that had been built up around the world - what an opener, what an occasion, it was a privilege to be part of.

"We wanted to put in a better performance than we did... but I think the mood is really good. We know what's in front of us now - we've got to win every game, it doesn't get much clearer than that.

"You've always got to get through poolplay and box on from there. We can't control what happened on the weekend, but we can control moving forward and we'll need to."

The All Blacks have never been in this position before. Traditionally, they have won their World Cup opener, they are the masters of their destiny and are already plotting a course through the rest of the draw.

Coming off a record defeat to South Africa in their final warm-up, their first-ever World Cup pool defeat has been a big reality check - a reminder they are mortal after all.

They have no competition points, and players and coaching staff are having to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror. All Blacks always talk about treating their next opponents with respect, but this time, Namibia represent their next chance to put things right.

Ryan listens to a media assessment that his forwards - the pack he was brought in to fix 12 months ago - have now been outplayed in consecutive defeats and he nods.

"That's a real honest appraisal and I agree with you," he said. "We know this test match against Namibia is really important to us as a forward pack and we need to build off this test match, because effectively, we're in a new tournament, as such, for where we need to be and what we need to get out of a forward pack.

"The boys are disappointing [sic] with that, but you've got to leave it and move forward. I'm really confident in where we sit, where we're trending and where we need to go - it's really clear to us.

Will Jordan collides with Thomas Ramos in World Cup opener.
Will Jordan collides with Thomas Ramos in World Cup opener. Photo credit: Getty Images

"When you look at that South Africa test and also the French test, we were exposed in two big areas, but we'll be right. We've got a lot of confidence in the boys and I know we'll front up when we need to."

Discipline must be of particular concern to the All Blacks coaching staff. The loss of red-carded lock Scott Barrett for the entire second half essentially cost them the South Africa contest and coach Ian Foster later commented the biggest lesson learned was to play with 15 men.

Two weeks later, the turning point against France came when winger Will Jordan was yellow-carded for a clumsy challenge on a player in the air and was then fortunate to escape more punishment, when he almost repeated the act later in the game.

More to come

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