- 11 Sep 07, 09:18 PM
Bordeaux Someone give these guys a game. Namibia used the biggest stage of all to highlight the problems facing rugby’s so-called "minnows".
Their commitment, passion and unquestionable talent was there for all to see in Bordeaux on Sunday, as they threw an industrial-sized spanner in the Irish works. But how on earth do they progress from here?
With the best will in the world, the Africans will be beaten (perhaps heavily) by France and Argentina. They might scramble a victory over Georgia in their crunch game. But what then?
Argentina’s rise has made their inclusion in one of the Tri or Six Nations championships a necessity.
The Namibians’ cause is less celebrated. They simply don’t get to play enough international rugby. Their most capped player against Ireland was Heino Senekal, plying his trade with the Cornish Pirates in National League One, and taking part in his third World Cup.
How many caps does he have? 25 is the answer.
To give you an idea as to the gulf in numbers, Brian O’Driscoll and Fabien Pelous are also playing in their third World Cup. O’Driscoll’s played 76 times for his country, Pelous 114. On Sunday Ireland fielded a side with a total of 743 caps between them, an average of nearly 50 per man. Namibia had a combined total of 114.
Experience (witness the Irish performance) isn’t everything - but it does help, especially when your country has a pool of just 1500 players, and only a smattering of professionals.
Namibia’s recent international rugby has consisted of World Cup qualifiers against Kenya, Tunisia and Morocco. They also played in the invitational IRB Nations Cup, which amounted to three matches. Next year they will play in the Africa Cup, probably six matches.
They may then try to scrabble enough money together for an end of season tour to Spain and Portugal. Namibia need more regular, meaningful opposition for their largely amateur side.
It doesn’t need to be the major rugby nations lining up against them; but tackling the likes of Canada, the USA and Georgia more often would lift their standards. Given a little more know-how on Sunday they might just have pulled off the biggest World Cup shock of all time.
Alastair Eykyn is a Radio 5 live reporter specialising in rugby union, tennis and hockey. He is covering Ireland at the World Cup and you can see 5 live's full broadcast schedule here.