Namibia chases elusive first win at Rugby World Cup against favored Uruguay

This is the one Uruguay and Namibia have been waiting for.

The one Rugby World Cup matchup they truly believe they can win.

Both teams are winless heading into the Pool A game on Wednesday in Lyon.

This marks Namibia’s last and only winnable game in a pool also including France, New Zealand and Italy. Uruguay has one more game, against the All Blacks next week.

URUGUAY vs. NAMIBIA (Uruguay leads 4-1 overall, 0-0 in RWC)

For the only time in the tournament, Uruguay will start as a favorite. It’s a mental switch that will put a little pressure on Los Teros to deliver.

Uruguay has three wins at Rugby World Cups: Spain in 1999, Georgia in 2003 and Fiji in 2019. The Uruguayans targeted Italy and Namibia in France and were 40 minutes from history against the Azzurri last week. Los Teros deservedly led Italy 17-7 at halftime but the effort was taxing. Italy changed tactics and had the capacity beyond Uruguay to go up another gear. Italy won 38-17 and Uruguay was heartbroken.

“Namibia is still 50% of our objective here,” Uruguay captain Andres Vilaseca said. “They are aiming with everything towards us since it is their last game. It’s going to be a very tough and physical battle. Our team is doing very well, we have already turned the page (on Italy).

“Uruguay has only won three games in all the history of the Rugby World Cup, and this adds some pressure on our side. We must accept this as there are a lot of people talking about the good performances we are having at this Rugby World Cup. We’ve received very nice messages, too. But the truth is that if we do not win against Namibia we wouldn’t confirm this great progress.”

This is the first Rugby World Cup match between Uruguay and Namibia but their second this year. Namibia toured South America and stopped in at Montevideo last month. Namibia fought back from 12-0 down to lead 13-12 but Uruguay’s better set-piece and general play prevailed to win 26-18.

Both teams have nine survivors in the starting XVs.

Uruguay is back to its best after restoring first-choice tighthead Diego Arbelo and wing Bautista Basso, and starting flanker Carlos Deus and center Felipe Arcos Perez, who both scored tries against Namibia in August.

Namibia has reached its fourth and last match in 18 days depleted. It is without first-choice players Le Roux Malan and captain Johan Deysel in midfield, flanker Wian Conradie and fullback Divan Rossouw. Flanker Tjiuee Uanivi is captain.

“To prepare the team for a game like this, it’s a little bit easier after (New Zealand and France),” Uanivi said. “We feel like we’ve got a debt to pay to our country, and to put on a performance.”

Namibia sacrificed its reserves against a full-strength France last week and suffered a 96-0 beating. That extended its tournament-record losing streak to 25 tests since 1999.

“The players know that a game like this, and what a win means for the country, can change a lot,” coach Allister Coetzee said. “So we will pitch up. It’s important for us to get over that final hurdle.”


AP Rugby World Cup:

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