Friday, 11 November 2016

November 2016 preview: Georgia

Georgia (vs Japan, Samoa & Scotland)
Image result for Georgia rugby
The Lelos have been an exception amongst Tier 2 sides this year. Unlike most others they have a very settled squad, and not faced a post-RWC rebuilding period under a new coach and new system. The building blocks have been in place and Milton Haig's team have pushed forward a level so far this year, notably beating Antim Cup rivals Romania by a record margin, followed up by going unbeaten on their tour of the Pacific Islands in spite of missing various first choice starters in the pack. So it is no surprise there is a wave of optimism around Georgian rugby at the minute.

In 2013 when Georgia clung on to beat Samoa for the first time, it was a huge upset against a side who were ranked 7th in the world. Now many are viewing this fixture as very even with a slight tilt towards Georgia. There is a sense of expectation around the side now, and failing to reach two wins this month would feel like a mild disappointment.

The match many are looking forward to most this month though is the encounter against Scotland in Kilmarnock. The Lelos will of course be firm underdogs against an improved Scottish outfit, but if they were to get those two wins, they'd be entering with significant momentum and maybe finishing the year inside the top 10 for the first time as the highest ranked Tier 2 side.

To add to the optimism around Georgia this month. They also have unusually few injuries for an elite rugby side as of currently writing (could easily change of course). Only really Shalva Mamukashvili from the pack is a notable absentee. Plus notable starters like Mamuka Gorgodze, Levan Chilachava (despite Toulon faring poorly this season), Misha Nariashvili or Tamaz Mchedlidze are receiving rave reviews of their form at domestic level.

News regarding Georgian rugby progress has been very positive this year for the most part, and the national side is approaching an all time high point. It will be interesting to see how they wear the burden of being favourites against sides like Japan (who will have had more training time ) or Samoa (who still have a decent squad on paper and will be eager to regain their form of a few years ago). Many believe this group of players can establish themselves as one of the strongest Tier 2 sides now and over the next few years. A repeat of the results from the November series of 2014, would finish a standout year on a bitterly sour note.

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