The 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday, with an action-packed opening weekend meaning there is no chance to ease yourself into the tournament.
While most of the focus of the first set of fixtures has been on the clash between New Zealand and South Africa, one of the beautiful things about the Rugby World Cup is watching how some of the less experienced teams perform.
That’s why it could be worth getting up early on Sunday morning to watch Italy take on Namibia before Ireland and Scotland’s showdown later in the day, with the African side coached by former Wales second row Phil Davies.
Here’s all the information you need to know ahead of the Pool B clash.
What time is Italy v Namibia kick-off?
Italy vs Namibia kicks off on Sunday, September 22 at 2.15pm Japanese time – which means viewers in the UK will have to be up bright and early to see it kick off at 6.15am BST.
Is it on TV? What channel? Can I stream it?
The broadcasting rights to the Rugby World Cup have been granted to ITV in the UK, and that’s where you’ll be able to watch this game with ITV’s coverage of the game starting at 5.45am.
If you can’t get to a TV, you can also stream the game live on the ITV Hub from your computer, smartphone or tablet.
What’s the team news?
Both countries are expected to name their starting XVs on Friday ahead of Sunday’s meeting at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Higashiosaka City.
Italy will likely rotate their squad over the first two games, with their second game of the tournament – this time against Canada – on Thursday.
Welsh fans will be hoping to catch a glimpse of speedy Namibian wing Lesley Klim, who plays his club rugby with Ospreys.
What are the betting odds?
Unsurprisingly, Italy are the big favourites for this one with 1/20 the shortest odds on offer for an Italian win, though they’re heavy enough favourites to be 1,000/1 in some places.
The kindest odds for Namibia place them at 9/1 but most bookies have them somewhere around 20/1 – with a draw anywhere between 33/1 and the oddly-specific 98/1.
What is the form guide?
Italy have struggled since the last World Cup, losing all 20 of their Six Nations games over the last four years.
A 20–18 win over South Africa in November 2016 is their only win over a fellow tier one nation in this World Cup cycle, while they have also suffered defeats to Tonga, Fiji and Japan since then.
Conor O’Shea’s side suffered heavy defeats to Ireland, France and England in the their warm up games – failing to score a single point in the latter – but also recorded an 85-15 defeat of Russia, who are in Pool A at this year’s tournament.
Namibia are the true also-rans of the Rugby World Cup, losing all 19 of their games at the tournament to date. They arrive in Japan ranked 23rd in the world – the lowest ranked team in the competition – despite going unbeaten in the Africa Cup since 2014.
The African side actually enjoyed a positive warm up series, recording three wins from three including a 43-0 defeat of an invitational side representing South African club side the Sharks as well as two wins over Pro14 team the Southern Kings.
What have the coaches said?
Namibia defence coach Dale McIntosh, who was capped twice for Wales after moving from New Zealand as a teenager, said: “These players are special guys.
“Good grief, when I turned up these guys train early in the morning, go to work, they come home at night to do more training and then do their pool recovery in between – and I haven’t heard one moan.
“If I’d done this in Wales they wouldn’t turn up. I’ve got huge admiration for them. They’re working hard and are just so proud to be playing for their nation.”
He added: “Through adversity you grow, you become stronger,” he said. “Will we stop being the whipping boys? Yeah, we will, because we’re all fed up of hearing that. But it’s not about winning and losing games. It’s about the process.
“If Italy beat us by 90 points, I won’t be disappointed as long as the boys gave it their all… I’m Maori but I’m an adopted Welshman so I can give a waiata or I can give a hymn. And I’m not bad at them. But if we beat Italy on Sunday, you’ll certainly see my haka that night.”
Meanwhile, Italy coach O’Shea told the Irish Times that Sunday’s game was a must-win, saying: “Compared to when I started my journey here, we now definitely have a better team, with more internal competition and much improved performances.
“Recently, we have shown that we can play against the top teams when we play our best game.
“At the World Cup we absolutely must win against Namibia and Canada and then focus on the other two big challenges we have.
“I believe that against South Africa, with this team, we can create an opportunity on our day.”