LONDON • All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's decision to field a second-string side against Namibia, under a new captain in Sam Cane, is part of the big picture New Zealand have taken of the World Cup.
He appeared to consider the game more as a valuable training run, referring to it as a chance to "rehearse" and give all his squad members valuable game time.
Only three players survived from the All Blacks' opening 26-16 win against Argentina - wings Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder along with lock Sam Whitelock - for the Pool C match in London's Olympic Stadium tonight.
"The big thing for us is to be able to get out there, give everyone an opportunity to have a run, get some game time under their belt, keep working on our structures and our skill sets," Hansen said when naming the team on Tuesday.
Such is the depth of talent he has to call on, he will still field a team with more than 400 caps and as an insurance policy, team leaders Richie McCaw and Kieran Read head a posse with 660 caps on the bench.
The 23-year-old Cane, who pips McCaw by two months to be the fifth-youngest All Blacks captain, will take over the leadership for the first time.
Hansen, always keen to cover all possibilities, has blooded 37 All Blacks in the past four years, of whom 14 have survived to make the World Cup. Cane was one of the first he brought in as a 20-year-old in 2012 to be the openside flanker understudy to McCaw.
Spared having to play against Hansen's preferred starting XV, Namibia can reasonably expect to avoid a repeat of the record 142-0 thrashing they suffered against Australia in 2003.
The lowest-ranked side (20th) in the tournament boast a dentist, some farmers, construction workers, engineers and a diamond trader in their squad.
But they have taken heart from Japan's upset over South Africa.
"It would be stupid not to be inspired by that match," said captain Jacques Burger. "I thought it was unreal. But it shows that nothing is impossible."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
- POOL C: NEW ZEALAND V NAMIBIA
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