Rugby World Cup
Preview: Tonga vs. Namibia - Pacific Islanders to bounce back against Welwitschias
Rob Bartlett
September 28, 2015
Tonga look to bounce back

Tonga and Namibia will meet at a Rugby World Cup for the first time in Tuesday's Pool C clash in Exeter. The Pacific Islanders will be keen to avenge their shock opening defeat to Georgia in Gloucester, while for a much-improved Namibia this will be their best chance to date of earning a first tournament victory. Sandy Park could well be in for a thriller.

Team News

With Nili Latu ruled out due to a hamstring injury, Tonga head coach Mana Otai has taken the unique decision to name co-captains -- Viliami Ma'afu and Siale Piutau will share the duties in Latu's absence.

Otai has made nine changes to the side that lost to Georgia at Kingsholm. In comes experience -- with 327 Test caps in the starting XV, this is their most experienced World Cup side in their history. It is also the oldest, with an average age of 30 years and 200 days. Aleki Lutui, 37, will make his first appearance in England in what will be his third World Cup.

Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, David Halaifonua, Siale Piutau (captain), Sione Piukala, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Latiume Fosita, Sonatane Takulua; Soane Tonga'uiha, Aleki Lutui, Sila Puafisi, Hale T Pole, Joseph Tuineau, Sione Kalamafoni, Jack Ram, Viliami Ma'afu (captain).

Replacements: Paula Ngauamo, Tevita Mailau, Halani 'Aulika, Tukulua Lokotui, Opeti Fonua, Samisoni Fisilau, Kurt Morath, Telusa Veainu.

Namibia coach Phil Davies has made eight changes to the side that valiantly went down to the All Blacks last Thursday. Leading cap holder Johnny Redelinghuys will be hoping to win his 49th Test cap from the bench, while Tinus du Plessis, one of the two players on 47 caps, has also been named as a replacement.

Captain Jacques Burger will make his 10th World Cup appearance, which leaves him one shy of the team record of 11 held by Hugo Horn.

Namibia: Chrysander Botha, Johan Tromp, Danie Van Wyk, Johan Deysel, Russel Van Wyk, Theuns Kotze, Eneill Buitendag; Casper Viviers, Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Johannes Coetzee, Janco Venter, Tjiuee Uanivi, Jacques Burger (captain), Rohan Kitshoff, Renaldo Bothma.

Replacements: Louis van der Westhuizen, Johnny Redelinghuys, AJ De Klerk, Tinus Du Plessis, PJ Van Lill, Damian Stevens, Darryl De La Harpe, David Philander

Key head to head

Burger was immense for the Welwitschias in their opener against the All Blacks at London's Olympic Stadium. He rallied his team-mates and asserted himself as the inspirational leader that most Aviva Premiership fans -- particularly Saracens' supporters -- know he can be. A match-up against fellow flanker Jack Ram will be an intriguing contest and definitely one to watch closely.

Key Stats

*These two nations have only ever met once before -- in May 1997, a touring Tonga side beat Namibia 20-14 in Windhoek.

*Kurt Morath, who starts on the bench, needs two points to equal Pierre Hola's all-time Tonga points record.

*Namibia have never won at a World Cup -- their record currently stands at 16 successive defeats.

Odds

Unibet hold Tonga as heavy favourites for this clash -- they're as short as 1/20. Namibia are 21/1 with the same company to earn their first ever World Cup victory. Again, with matches like this, value is perhaps best found elsewhere: there have been no red cards during the tournament as of yet, but you can get 11/1 on one being shown in Exeter on Tuesday night.

Weather

Sunny spells are expected in Devon around the 4.45pm kick off time. With next to no chance of rain predicted, conditions should remain dry -- although a fairly strong westerly wind could give the kickers plenty to think about.

Prediction

While Namibia have vastly improved since their record 142-0 defeat in Australia 12 years ago, this will still be a step too far in the search for that elusive first World Cup win. The Tongans will be hell-bent on overcoming their defeat to the Georgians and will prove too strong here -- Tonga to win by 15-20 points.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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