24 Sep 2015

All Blacks backline the focus vs Namibia

11:18 am on 24 September 2015

The backline combinations in the All Blacks squad provide the most intrigue heading into their Rugby World Cup pool match against Namibia.

As reluctant as the All Blacks have been to admit it publicly, the world's 20th-ranked team won't be able to stop the onslaught at Olympic Stadium and there'll be plenty of try-scoring opportunities.

The new midfield pairing of Sonny Bill Williams and Malakai Fekitoa will be particularly interesting, with Williams a standout from Wembley and Fekitoa making the most of his limited opportunities this year.

All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa

All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa Photo: Photosport

Fekitoa is looking forward to playing off the dual-code superstar and says they've been putting plenty of work into the combination.

"I have always wanted to play next to him with his skills and offloads," he told reporters after being named to make his first World Cup appearance.

"We will work on it as well. He is always talking and very professional, always working, looking at his notes and making sure we do the moves properly and the plays we learned during the week. That's the good thing about him and that's why I am so excited to finally play outside him and learn what he does."

Further out wide, there is a chance for the wingers to stretch their legs and open their try-scoring account for the tournament, with both players having to deal with recent adversity.

Sonny Bill Williams and Nehe Milner-Skudder during the All Blacks v Argentina Rugby World Cup 2015 match at Wembley Sunday 20 Septebmer 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz

All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams (C) and Nehe Milner-Skudder (L) on the charge against the Pumas Photo: Photosport

Nehe Milner-Skudder will be desperate to get his hands on the ball early and banish the demons from his bombed try at Wembley.

The urgency to prove himself is only increased by the imminent return of the injured Waisake Naholo, who's likely to push hard for a spot in the top XV when he plays against Georgia next week.

On the other side of the park Julian Savea has found himself in a mini-slump, without a try this year.

However coach Steve Hansen isn't concerned with the form of his star winger, who was criticised for his fitness after the Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes.

Julian Savea in full flight against Argentina

Julian Savea in full flight against Argentina Photo: Photosport

"He might have had a wee patch when things didn't go so good for him but that's normal," Hansen said.

"You can't stay up like that for the whole season. Does he have to go looking for the ball? Of course he does. You don't want your wingers just parking out on the wing, they've got to look for work and I thought he did that really well against Argentina and the more he plays after the break he's had, the better he'll be."

While it will be pleasing for Hansen to see some of his backs get some confidence, he wants the team to make sure they stick to their structures and build on their opening win.

"One of the things that we pride ourselves on is trying to improve our performance from the previous one. We have a line in the sand as far as the game against Argentina goes.

"The group going out on Thursday have to change that line to a higher performance level. It does not matter who we are playing. That's our focus."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.