Day 19 at the Rugby World Cup: New Zealand and France out to avoid upsets

Defending champions New Zealand are expected to rack up the points again on Sunday when they return to action against minnows Namibia.

The All Blacks, who thrashed Canada 63-0 on Wednesday, will return to the top of Pool B with victory, while France take on Tonga as they aim to follow Pool C rivals England into the quarter-finals.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points before Sunday’s World Cup fixtures.

World Cup mis-match?

New Zealand’s march towards a record third straight World Cup crown is unlikely to miss a step against the tournament’s lowest-ranked side Namibia.

The Africans lost 47-22 to Italy in their opening Pool B game and were then thrashed 57-3 by South Africa. They have never won a World Cup game in 21 attempts.

In contrast, the All Blacks, chasing a 17th successive victory in World Cup matches, can extend their unbeaten run of World Cup pool matches to 31, although they cannot yet emulate England by sealing a place in the last eight.

Bookmakers have predicted a 70-point win for Steve Hanson’s side, while Namibia will be hoping to avoid a similar scoreline to the 142-0 rout by Australia in 2003, their worst-ever World Cup defeat.

New role no bother for Barrett

Hansen has made a series of key changes in an experimental line-up, which showcases the depth of the All Blacks’ talent.

Among them, Jordie Barrett, who scored a try from the wing against Canada, will start at fly-half for the first time at Test level in place of Richie Mo’unga, while full-back and brother Beauden Barrett is also rested.

New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster has no concerns about using Jordie Barrett in an unaccustomed role, saying: “We had a training run (on Friday), we let him run the roost for a while, he did a pretty good job. Then we had a couple of chats and that was about it.”

Namibia call on recent past

Namibia have only once beaten a top-tier nation and that was back in 1991 in Windhoek when they won 26-15 against Ireland.

The Welwitschias are the world’s 23rd-ranked side and will be more than happy if they can repeat the performance they produced in their previous World Cup clash with the All Blacks.

All change for Les Bleus

France will seal their quarter-final place if they beat Tonga in Kumamoto City following victories over Argentina and USA.

But Les Bleus cannot afford any slip-ups against a side that upset them 19-14 in their final pool game at the 2011 World Cup as Argentina trail by only three points after Saturday’s defeat to England.

France coach Jacques Brunel has made 11 changes from the side who were far from convincing in their 33-9 win against USA four days ago.

Tonga will be bidding for their first win in the tournament after following up their opening 35-3 defeat to England with a 28-12 loss to Argentina.

England first to seal their progression

England eased to victory
England eased to victory (Ashley Western/PA)

It wasn’t the prettiest encounter at times but England battled to a comfortable 39-10 win over Argentina in Tokyo to become the first side to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Tomas Lavanini’s early red card left Argentina with a mountain to climb but the Pumas made life difficult for England.

But as they began to tire, England found more joy and ran in six tries to secure a bonus-point win and ease through to the last eight.

“We’re just worried about France next week. It’s qualification for the quarter-finals but the emphasis is just about getting better for the next game,” head coach Eddie Jones said.

“When Argentina went down to 14 men, they possibly had a psychological lift and it’s human nature that we dropped off a little bit because you think you’re going to win the game.”

Stat of the day

  • New Zealand v Namibia - 0545 BST, ITV
  • France v Tonga - 0845 BST, ITV
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