Namibia
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Welwitschias arrive in France

The Welwitschias arrived to a warm welcome at their Rugby World Cup base in Aix-les-Bains, eastern France, on Sunday.

Many in the crowd gathered at the Théâtre de Verdure were from the rugby schools of FC Rugby, Soc Rugby, US Montmélian, and Club Motterain and had come especially for the welcoming reception.

Playing at a seventh consecutive World Cup, Namibia will compete in Pool A alongside hosts France, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay at this edition.

They open their quest for a first win at the World Cup against Italy on Saturday. Both sides have won twice in their four meetings to date.

Namibia’s first success against the Europeans was on 15 June 1991 on home turf, winning that encounter 17-7. Seven days later, Namibia beat the Italians 33-19.

However, the Italians turned the tables on 23 June 2001, beating Namibia 49-24 during another of their southern Hemisphere tours.

Italy won by a similar margin at the Rugby World Cup four years ago in Japan, winning that clash 47-22.

The Italians may again have the measure of their African rivals, who ill be targeting victory over Uruguay in their last Pool A game in Lyon on 27 September as their best chance for a first World Cup win.

South African coach Allister Coetzee (60) is in charge, having previously coached the Springboks for two years before being sacked in 2018. He took Namibia on a lengthy tour of South America over the last weeks to prepare for the World Cup.

“The never-say-die attitude of the team has really been a stand-out point for me. None of the games started well, but we finished strongly and came back. That is something you cannot coach, to question the ‘why’ of the team. That positive attitude is there and hopefully we can take it into the World Cup as well,” Coetzee said.

The Azzuri also have designs of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time. Their chances of qualifying for the last eight will likely go down to their last match in Pool A against France, as they will first face Namibia and Uruguay before having to take New Zealand and then the host nation.

“Our objective is clear: winning first two matches against Namibia and Uruguay,” Toulouse full-back Ange Capuozzo told AFP.

“Once we’ve achieved that, we’ll go on to face New Zealand and France. In one match, anything can happen. Yes, we’re outsiders, we’re far from favourites, but we’ve got a very complete team and we can worry any team.