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New Zealand vs Namibia: Soul-searching All Blacks bid to bounce back in Rugby World Cup mismatch

New Zealand vs Namibia: Soul-searching All Blacks bid to bounce back in Rugby World Cup mismatch

New Zealand will face Namibia in Toulouse on Friday night in an unfamiliar damage limitation phase at a Rugby World Cup.

The three-time tournament winners will bid to hit back to form and winning ways after losing out 27-13 to hosts France last week.

Head coach Ian Foster has made nine changes from that Les Bleus loss, as much accounting for the level of opposition as the dispiriting defeat on opening night.

Centre Anton Lienert-Brown admitted New Zealand have had to do some soul-searching to come to terms with their performance level last week, but insisted the All Blacks can always come good quickly.

“We just need to get ourselves to a quarter-final, and then you’re into knockout rugby,” said Lienert-Brown.

“Obviously losing to France makes it harder to finish top in the pool now, but we’ve got to focus on getting better in the next three games.

“And then we obviously want to be in a quarter-final. Anything can happen from there.”

Historic defeat: New Zealand’s loss to France was their first at the pool stage of a World Cup (Getty Images)
Historic defeat: New Zealand’s loss to France was their first at the pool stage of a World Cup (Getty Images)

Second row Sam Whitelock will equal Richie McCaw’s New Zealand record of 148 caps on Friday, with the All Blacks looking to deliver a statement display.

The idea of New Zealand needing a performance to do their talking remains curious for such a decorated outfit.

The All Blacks slipped to their heaviest-ever international defeat with the 35-7 loss to South Africa at Twickenham at the end of August.

“The last couple of games have been disappointing for us and we’ve got to make shifts in our game, we’ve got to be better,” said Lienert-Brown. “But we’ve stuck pretty tight as a group.”