After the highly anticipated opening match at Stade de France featuring the host nation, France, and the three-time champions, New Zealand, the Rugby World Cup action transitions from Saint-Denis to the eastern city of Saint-Étienne. Here, Italy and Namibia are set to face off for the second time in consecutive tournaments.
- Fixture: Italy vs. Namibia
- Venue: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne (Capacity: 42,152)
- Kick-off: 13:00 (GMT+2)
These two teams have crossed paths only once before in Rugby World Cups, back in 2019. Similar to today’s encounter in France, their match took place in Japan at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiosaka, marking their inaugural appearance in the tournament. Italy emerged victorious in the rain at this historic Japanese rugby venue, but Namibia, affectionately known as the Welwitschias after their national symbol, won over numerous fans with their spirited performance.
Their sole previous meeting in the RWC 2019 Pool B match in Higashiosaka was a high-scoring affair, with both sides notching a total of 10 tries. Despite the Six Nations side securing seven of these tries in the pouring rain, Namibia’s determined showing earned them praise. In fact, Namibia had both the opening and closing say in the match, scoring the first and last try in a game that concluded 47-22, captivating the 20,000-plus crowd.
Key Talking Point:
The central question for Namibia in this tournament is whether they can finally secure a win. Over six tournaments and 22 matches played, with one match canceled in Japan, their best result remains a narrow 16-15 loss against Georgia in 2015. While this may not be their ideal match for a victory, they also have a clash with Uruguay in Pool A.
A noteworthy individual battle to watch is Giacomo Nicotera against Torsten van Jaarsveld. The formidable Italian, known for never backing down, will face off against the experienced Namibian, who shares the same fearless approach. This showdown is expected to be a fiercely contested battle in the front row at Stade de Marseille. Additionally, van Jaarsveld, who occasionally transitions to the back row, knows his way to the tryline, promising an exciting contest.
Stats to Amaze:
In Japan four years ago, Italy’s Sergio Parisse, then 36, became only the third player in history to participate in five World Cups. He joined the esteemed ranks of former Azzurri teammate Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan legend Brian Lima. Unfortunately, his desired farewell match against New Zealand was canceled due to Typhoon Hagibis, marking the penultimate appearance of his impressive 142 international caps.
The match will be officiated by Andrew Brace from Ireland. Brace, a former Belgium international, served as an assistant referee in Japan four years ago. He is now among four officials making their debut as central match referees in France.