|Not a member? Sign up now!|
Wales coach Warren Gatland has chosen a potent blend of experience and youth as his team look to secure a bonus-point victory over Namibia in their Pool D match on Monday.
The Kiwi coach, who has made 11 changes to the side that beat Samoa last Sunday, has included fit-again duo Stephen Jones and Ryan Jones, as well as prop Gethin Jenkins.
Those three boast 230 Test caps between them, with fly half Stephen Jones sitting on 100 - or 10 more than the entire Namibian back line combined.
But Gatland believes the match against the Welwitschias at Stadium Taranaki provides the Welsh with an opportunity to combine young legs and old heads as they look towards their final pool match with Fiji.
“We are not taking Namibia lightly in any way," Gatland said, "but there is a lot of thought going into the selection in terms of looking at potential combinations in the back row - possibly for next week (against Fiji) - and also giving a few experienced players the opportunity to come back in the side and stake a claim for selection against Fiji."
Wales have used just 20 players at RWC 2011 so far, which is the fewest of any team in the tournament, although that will increase by five when full back Lee Byrne, wing Aled Brew, prop Craig Mitchell, and the two Joneses line up on Monday.
“I spoke to the players this morning and said that it’s important, individually and collectively, they go out and make a statement on Monday night,” Gatland said.
“It’s important that they put us, coaches and selectors, under pressure so that they are in contention for selection for the match against Fiji. And that’s only achieved by a quality performance.”
Stephen Jones’ return from injury means there is no place in the starting XV for Rhys Priestland, while flanker Ryan Jones replaces the injured Dan Lydiate in the back row.
It will be Stephen Jones’ 101st cap for Wales, breaking the record he shares with Gareth Thomas, and the veteran fly half says he still loves playing for his country.
“Oh definitely, it’s a World Cup, isn’t it? Jesus, it’s exciting times as a player,” he said.
“You ask any member of the squad and it’s the same whatever your age. It’s the best and you want to be a part of it.”
Patient and controlled
Gatland says his side will aim to clinch a bonus-point win against a team waiting for their first victory since making their Rugby World Cup debut in 1999.
“(The bonus point is) pretty important. There’s still a possibility in this group that, if Samoa are able to beat Fiji and South Africa, you could end up with teams on the same points.
"We’ve gone through the permutations of that and it could come down to point difference, as well,” Gatland said.
“It’s important that we don’t try to rush things, be a little bit patient and controlled in the first 20 or 30 minutes and set a platform to get the bonus point.
“It’s not disrespecting Namibia at all, but we’ve got to put pressure on ourselves and say we should be good enough to win this game and to win it well.”