Welcome to the RWC2019 Debriefs. The World Cup is now over and a new 4 year cycle begins, but the first stage of any cycle should be looking back at how things went – what went wrong and what went right – before looking on to how things go for the next cycle to ensure qualification to RWC2023 (if they haven’t automatically qualified) and to make sure they enter that tournament in peak form.
I will be going through these debriefs alphabetically, so today I will be casting my eye over Georgia.
Georgia automatically qualified by finishing 3rd in Pool C during the 2015 tournament, finishing behind semifinalists Argentina and champions New Zealand.
The Lelos won the Rugby European Championship for the 10th time in 13 years. They lost to Scotland both at home and away in the warm-up matches but put in good performances, while also managing a 24-20 victory over the Southern Kings.
- Pool Stages (4th in Pool D)
- Wales 43-14 Georgia
- Georgia 33-7 Uruguay
- Georgia 10-45 Fiji
- Australia 27-8 Georgia
Looking at the strength of Pool D, it was always going to be difficult for Georgia to manage another top 3 finish in their pool. They certainly gave it every go, though. Against Wales, they came out fighting and were deserving of their 14-14 halftime score. Though they couldn’t hold with the depth of the Welsh squad, they never gave up fighting and there were some great individual performances. Against Uruguay, the Lelos took advantage of their powerful pack to dominate the scrums and maul on their way to their first ever 4-try bonus point.
Unfortunately for Georgia, that was the last point they were able to earn in the pool, as they came up against a Fijian squad that were looking to make up for their loss to Uruguay. The Fijians managed to negate the Georgian scrum and though the Lelos again did well to hold with their opponents for as long as they did, they fell away in the second half. In their final match against Australia, they struggled to put together too much in attack but put in a highly impressive defensive performance, with just a pair of late tries tipping the scoreboard heavily in the Wallabies’ favour.
Georgia are in a really difficult position right now.
They have a super strong and experienced pack to build a platform off, while they are in the process of developing a set of young backs to take advantage of the forward dominance. In Vasil Lobzhanidze and Gela Aprasidze, they have 2 of the best young scrum halves in international rugby, while Tedo Abzhandadze looks to be the future at fly half and will benefit from playing with Lobzhanidze at Brive. The quality of youngsters coming through will keep the Georgian national team building as their inspirational leaders like Mamuka Gorgodze bow out, providing the right person comes in to replace Milton Haig.
The only worries right now for Georgia should be the opportunities they are getting to develop. The Lelos have clearly outgrown the Rugby European Championship in its current format but are currently blocked off from rising any higher in terms of an annual tournament. Their warm-up match against Scotland was the first time they had ever hosted a Tier 1 nation, which just isn’t good enough. While I don’t feel they should be replacing Italy in the Six Nations, something needs to be done so that Georgia can play the Tier 1 nations regularly and build on their success this decade. Similarly, I really think that the Georgians need to be able to build at a club level. So many top flight clubs will try to get hold of a Georgian front rower, but the options are much more limited for other positions. Personally, I would love to see a Georgian franchise added to the Pro14. We are starting to see some growth for Italy due to Benetton and Zebre competing against the best of Wales, Ireland and Scotland; I think that having a Georgian franchise and then other Georgians interspersed through other top flight clubs would put the Lelos in a very good position.