KO 5.00pm (8.00pm local time)
Saturday 31st August 2019
Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi
TV coverage – Premier Sports 2
(re-runs on FreeSports on Sunday 1st September at 10.00am and 7.00pm)
It’s a pretty rare thing to have a brand new away trip for Test rugby. That’s partly a result of a relatively small pool of prospective opponents but also because those building the schedules have tended to be fairly conservative with their match-making. This weekend Scotland will become the first Tier 1 nation to travel to Tbilisi for a full Test.
New away trips for Scotland in the 21st century (first full capped Tests):
Canada – 2002 (Vancouver)
USA – 2002 (San Francisco)
Samoa – 2012 (Apia)
Japan – 2016 (Toyota City)
Georgia Scouting Report
Record in this RWC cycle
Played – 39
Won – 30
Drawn – 1
Lost – 8
Games against Tier 1 opposition
This will be just the fifth match against a Tier 1 side for Georgia since the last World Cup. The closest they have come on the scoreboard to one of these teams was a 7 point defeat to Wales, going down 6-13 at the Millennium Stadium. They have also lost away to Scotland (16-43); Argentina (29-45); and Italy (17-28).
It’s worth noting that it’s been nearly 3 years since Georgia were last defeated in Tbilisi. This is the opportunity that the Lelos have been waiting for – a chance to prove themselves on their home turf against a Tier 1 nation. While it might be ‘just’ a warm-up game, the hosts will be extremely motivated for a match and result that could resonate way beyond the 80 minutes.
Route to RWC 2019
Georgia were one of the automatic qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup after finishing 3rd in their group at the 2015 tournament. They will be looking to at least match that achievement in Pool D this time round against Australia, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. The Fiji match in particular looms large with the Lelos having won one and lost one against the Pacific Islanders (both away from home) so far in this RWC cycle.
One of Scotland’s biggest tests in Tbilisi will come at scrum time. Georgia have a hard-earned reputation of having one of the very best set pieces in the world. The cornerstone of a monstrous pack is tighthead prop Levan Chilachava.
At 1.88m (6ft 2in) and 128kg (20st 2lb) the Montpellier player is an enormous human being. There are props out there who get away with just being big but Chilachava, in common with pretty much every Georgian front row, adds exemplary technique to the mix to maximise his advantage.
With Scotland’s strongest scrummaging props (Gordon Reid and Willem Nel) having played last Saturday against France it will be interesting to see if Gregor Townsend asks them to back up again away to Georgia. Whoever turns out in the Scottish front row will be in for a very long afternoon indeed!
While they’ve had the pack to compete for a number of years it’s only more recently that Georgia have found the depth in the backs to really push their case for a further step up at international level. Hugely talented scrum half Gela Aprasidze is an indicator of how far they are progressing.
Aprasidze was part of the Georgian U20s side that defeated Scotland two summers ago. He also showcased his outstanding skillset in that same tournament with a superb solo score against Ireland. If it wasn’t for the equally precocious talents of Vasil Lobzhanidze (who is just one year older) Aprasidze would surely have made a bucketload of starts for his country by now.
The nature of the 9 shirt means it’s essential to have, at the very least, two top quality options available. With Lobzhanidze and Aprasidze, Georgia undoubtedly have the scrum halves to take advantage if their pack can provide a dominant platform to play from.
This will be just the third time the two sides have met in a capped international. Past matches:
Rugby Park, Invercargill, 14th September 2011
Dan Parks (4P, 1 DG)
Merab Kvirikashvili (2P)
Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, 26th November 2016
Tommy Seymour (1T);
Sean Maitland (1T);
Stuart Hogg (2T);
Hamish Watson (1T);
Greig Laidlaw (5C, 1P)
Vasil Lobzhanidze (2T);
Merab Kvirikashvili (2P)
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant 1: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant 2: Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
M. Gauzere has refereed a remarkable number of games since Gregor Townsend took over in 2017. Saturday’s match will be the sixth time he has taken charge of a Scotland game in a little over two years (no other ref has had more than two games). The seventh occasion is just around the corner as well – the French whistler will also referee the dark blues’ RWC pool encounter with Samoa on 30th September.
By now the Scotland coaches must have a massive dossier of information on M. Gauzere, including what he focuses on and what he might be more likely to let slide. With all that previous experience and analysis to fall back on, there should certainly be no excuse for getting on his bad side either this weekend or in a month’s time!
Scotland’s last 5 games with M. Gauzere in charge:
- 2017 – lost to Fiji (A)
Penalties: 23 (For 15 – 8 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Strauss); Fiji 2 YCs
- 2017 – beat Australia (H)
Penalties: 18 (For 9 – 9 Against)
Cards: Australia 1 RC + 1 YC
- 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
Penalties: 15 (For 8 – 7 Against)
- 2018 – beat Italy (A)
Penalties: 14 (For 9 – 5 Against)
- 2019 – lost to Wales (H)
Penalties: 20 (For 11 – 9 Against)
Scotland team to face Georgia: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, capt), Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Josh Strauss, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Huw Jones.