OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) – Namibia have been forced to make a change to their bench for their Rugby World Cup opener against Italy at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium on Sunday after Ospreys wing Lesley Klim failed a late fitness test on his calf problem.
Klim, who would likely have started were it not for the injury cloud hanging over him, will be replaced by PJ Walters, the only uncapped player in Namibia’s World Cup squad.
“Lesley has failed a late fitness test for this week’s game. We hope he’ll be fit for the forthcoming ones,” Namibia attack coach Mark Jones confirmed on Saturday.
“We hope he’ll be fit for South Africa but there’s no guarantee at this stage. We’ll get some further investigation and take some advice from there.”
Namibia will know there is a vulnerability about Italy, who have lost 10 of their last 11 tests, but if they are to cause an upset and record a first ever World Cup win at the 20th attempt, they will also have to show an improvement in performance.
“We need to make sure we’re at our very best,” Jones admitted. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t come up with a few ideas which I think may help us perform well against Italy but we’re under no illusions they’re a very good team with a lot of quality players playing at the top level.
“Confidence and momentum are really important in professional sport and this game gives us the opportunity to achieve both of those things.
“We’ll look to build great confidence going into two very difficult fixtures (against South Africa and New Zealand) along with Canada in the last game.”
Namibia struggled with the conditions in a recent 20-0 loss to Russia that was played in the wet and with rain predicted in Osaka on Sunday, Jones knows they will have to take the lessons from that encounter into the Italy one.
“It was clear the conditions played a big part during that game and towards the result,” he said. “We’re aware there could be poor weather for the game so we’ve prepared accordingly for all scenarios.
“Hopefully the lessons the guys learned will give us a good heads up on how we have to adapt as the conditions play out.”
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)