Friday 23rd October 2020
BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
TV coverage – ITV4
It seems like only yesterday Scotland were rounding off their World Cup preparations with a Friday night match against Georgia in Edinburgh. In front of a crowd of 53,406 (remember crowds – they were great weren’t they?) the dark blues ran out 36-9 victors against The Lelos, who were making their first ever trip to Murrayfield.
A little over a year later, the two teams will repeat the dose – minus the fans, unfortunately. The motivations will be broadly similar. Scotland need a really good hit out to prepare for the tournament matches to come (the final Six Nations fixture against Wales and the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup). Georgia will have more than one eye on the type of big result that would really enhance their case for inclusion at the top table of Northern Hemisphere rugby on an annual basis.
Georgia Scouting Report
Tier 1 matches
Between their debut in Test rugby in 1989 and 2015, Georgia only played teams from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship on 6 occasions outwith World Cups. By the end of 2020 they will have clashed with Tier 1 sides at least 10 times in 5 years.
There’s an element of good fortune in 3 of those games with the Lelos being late replacements for the Autumn Nations Cup in place of Japan. World Rugby do appear to have been trying to increase the amount of top level fixtures for Georgia though. This really is essential for a side that is too strong for the Rugby Europe Championship but still needs more development if they are to have a chance of persuading the Six Nations to accommodate them in future.
Less than ideal preparation
Opportunity has arrived at a challenging time for Georgia. They have struggled financially during the coronavirus pandemic and it’s been difficult getting their domestic tournaments back up and running. They have an interim coach in place with a wider staff who were only appointed in early October. There are injuries to key players, including top 2 tightheads Beka Gigashvili and Levan Chilachava who are missing from the squad as things stand.
Then there was the small matter of the vice president of the Georgian Rugby Union shooting a player in the leg. While Mark Dodson may be a divisive figure, his time at the SRU has never involved GBH on any players…
In a tournament shortened by Covid, earlier this year Georgia were crowned champions of the Rugby Europe Championship for the 9th time in the last decade. 28 tries and an aggregate score of 181 – 53 in their four games was ample demonstration of their dominance at this level.
The upcoming Autumn Nations Cup will be a very different challenge for the Georgians with their 2016 win over Fiji being the only time they have emerged victorious against one of the other seven competing nations. They have given most, if not all, of those other countries some difficult moments over the years though. Scotland will need to be on their guard to ensure they don’t become The Lelos’ biggest ever scalp.
These teams have met on two previous occasions in Scotland with the home side winning both of those matches:
Scotland 43 – 16 Georgia
Rugby Park, 26 November 2016
Scotland: Tommy Seymour (1T); Penalty try (1T); Sean Maitland (1T); Stuart Hogg (2T); Hamish Watson (1T); Greig Laidlaw (5C & 1P)
Georgia: Vasil Lobzhanidze (2T); Merab Kvirikashvili (2C)
Scotland 36 – 9 Georgia
BT Murrayfield, 6 September 2019
Scotland: Ali Price (1T); Blair Kinghorn (1T); Sam Johnson (1T); Darcy Graham (1T); George Horne (1T & 1C); Peter Horne (1T); Adam Hastings (2C)
Georgia: Tedo Abzhanadadze (3P)
Referee: Alex Ruiz (France)
Assistant 1: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant 2: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
M. Ruiz will be a new face for Scotland in Test matches. Gregor Townsend and co. should be very familiar with the style of French officials though, with Top 14 refs having taken charge of 15 of the 35 matches since Toony took charge.
In terms of their overall discipline, Scotland will be looking to improve their penalty numbers during this Autumn’s games. Across their last 16 matches the dark blues have been on the wrong end of the penalty count 10 times. In their favour, though, they have only received 3 yellow cards in that spell compared to 7 yellows and 2 reds for their opponents.
Update 21/10. Squad reaction will be on the podcast later
Scotland team: Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, James Lang, Duhan Van der Merwe, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown (capt), Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, Scott Cummings, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Rob Harley, Nick Haining, Cornell Du Preez, George Horne, Finn Russell.