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Scotland v Georgia, Summer Nations Series 2023: Match Preview pt I

Darcy Graham - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports
Darcy Graham - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports

KO 5.30 at Scottish Gas Murrayfield
Saturday 26th August 2023

Live on Amazon Prime

This will be just the 4th Scotland game against opposition from outwith Tier 1 nations in this World Cup cycle. That’s compared to 10 such fixtures in the 4 years running up to the 2019 RWC. While Covid certainly had an impact – knocking out tours in 2020 and 2021 as well as a match scheduled for Murrayfield against Fiji in the Autumn Nations Cup – it’s still a relatively low number.

With a new global tournament looking likely to kick off in 2026 that will restrict the available windows even further, it’s important that unions, including the SRU, maximise the number of games they are aranging outwith traditional opposition. Trips to Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan and the USA in the last decade have (hopefully) allowed Scottish rugby to play a part in developing opportunities in these countries while also bringing on the next generation of its own talent.

It would be sad to see games like this one fall by the wayside in favour of playing yet more fixtures against the rest of Tier 1.

Scotland’s non-Tier 1 fixtures during the pro era (outwith World Cups):

  • Canada – P5, W4, L1
  • Fiji – P7, W5, L2
  • Georgia – P4, W4
  • Japan – P5, W5
  • Pacific Islanders – P1, W1
  • Romania – P5, W5
  • Samoa – P8, W6, D1, L1
  • Tonga – P4, W3, L1
  • USA – P4, W3, L1


Georgia Scouting Report

Record in this RWC cycle v 2019

35 – Played – 39
24 – Won – 30
2 – Drawn – 1
9 – Lost – 8

Games against Tier 1 opposition

There has been a bit of an upgrade to the number of matches played by Georgia against Tier 1 opposition in recent years, although it still only averages a little over 2 fixtures each season. They played 6 times against Tier 1 during the 2019 RWC cycle:

  • 2019 v Scotland (A). Lost 9-36
  • 2019 v Scotland (H). Lost 10-44
  • 2018 v Italy (A). Lost 17-28
  • 2017 v Wales (A). Lost 6-13
  • 2017 v Argentina (A). Lost 29-45
  • 2016 v Scotland (A). Lost 16-43

The four years leading up to the World Cup in France have seen not only an increase in this type of fixture – with this being the 9th game – but also the Lelos’ first 2 wins against Tier 1 opposition, knocking over Italy in Tbilisi before their greatest every victory against Wales in Cardiff:

  • 2022 v Wales (A). Won 13-12
  • 2022 v Italy (H). Won 28-19
  • 2021 v France (A). Lost 15-41
  • 2021 v South Africa. Lost 9-40
  • 2020 v Ireland (A). Lost 10-23
  • 2020 v Wales (A). Lost 0-18
  • 2020 v England (A). Lost 0-40
  • 2020 v Scotland (A). Lost 7-48

Route to RWC 2023

Georgia had to qualify for this year’s tournament after only managing to finsh 4th in their pool in Japan. Despite making life difficult for both Wales and Australia and picking up a comfortable win against Uruguay, defeat to Fiji edged the Georgians out of the automatic World Cup qualification spots. They would have targeted the game against the flying Fijians but in the end were blown away by Semi Radradra who scored two tries and set up another three in what was a disappointing night for the Lelos.

Qualifying to play in France came down to the combined results of the 2021 and 2022 Rugby Europe championships. This is a competition that Georgia have dominated for more than a decade, winning every edition bar one since 2011. They duly romped to the Europe 1 qualification spot, with a 25-all draw against Portugal the only blemish on their otherwise perfect winning record.

That has left the Lelos in Pool C this time round – essentially a re-run of their 2019 RWC group with Wales, Australia and Fiji all present and correct. The only difference is Portugal instead of Uruguay rounding out their quartet of opponents.

The Georgians will no doubt feel they can have a crack at all three of the higher ranked sides. Australia will, most likely, come into the pool opener on the back of a 5 match losing streak and just 2 wins from 13 games in the last year.

Fiji (9th) are only two places above the Lelos (11th) in the World Rugby rankings, while Wales are currently sandwiched between their pool rivals in 10th. The Welsh will be looking nervously at their final group game against the Georgians after that traumatic defeat in Cardiff last November.

Danger man

While Georgia have built their reputation on a powerful scrum, populated by man mountain props who have come to be essential pick-ups for sides in France’s Top 14, more recently they have seen some real talent emerging in the backline.

The Lelos have always produced excellent scrum halves (the generals who guide the aforementioned man mountains around the pitch) but their latest wonderkid plays in the back 3 and has the chance to not only be a great of Georgian rugby but potentially of world rugby.

Davit Niniashvili can do it all and has been strutting his stuff for both Lyon and his national side since he was a teenager. Injury brought a premature end to his 2022/23 season but he has returned to the Georgia lineup in time for their warm-up matches and he will be absolutely key to how his side performs in France.

Featuring primarily on the wing for his club and almost exclusively at full back for his country, he is a player that needs to get as many touches on the ball as possible. His pace and elusiveness are up there with the very best and he brings a rugged Georgian mentality to his defence – hitting like an openside – and under the high ball where he is outstanding at defusing dangerous kicks and looking to turn them into attacking opportunities. Scotland would do well not to kick loosely at Murrayfield…

Miscellany

  • Former Glasgow Warriors’ hooker Shalva Mamukashvili played in Georgia’s most recent RWC warm-up fixture, scoring a try in their win over USA.
  • Winger, Akaki Tabutsadze, has bagged a frankly incredible 29 tries in his 29 Test caps for the Lelos. The 26 year old averages a try for every 77 minutes played at this level, including crossing in each of his last 5 appearances. He has already scored at Murrayfield, notching his side’s only try in 2020 and, if selected, he will have to be well marked on Saturday evening.

Previous results

This will be the fourth time the two sides have met in Scotland. Past matches:

Rugby Park, 26th November 2016
Scotland 43
Tommy Seymour (1T);
Sean Maitland (1T);
Stuart Hogg (2T);
Hamish Watson (1T);
Penalty Try
Greig Laidlaw (5C, 1P)
Georgia 16
Vasil Lobzhanidze (2T);
Merab Kvirikashvili (2P)

Murrayfield Stadium, 6th September 2019
Scotland 36
Ali Price (1T);
Blair Kinghorn (1T);
Sam Johnson (1T);
Darcy Graham (1T);
George Horne (1T, 1C);
Peter Horne (1T);
Adam Hastings (2C)
Georgia 9
Tedo Abzhandadze (3P)

Murrayfield Stadium, 23rd October 2020
Scotland 48
Darcy Graham (2T);
Fraser Brown (2T);
Hamish Watson (1T);
Stuart McInally (1T);
Duhan van der Merwe (1T);
Blair Kinghorn (1T);
Adam Hastings (4C)
Georgia 7
Akaki Tabutsadze (1T);
Tedo Abzhandadze (1C)

Significant stat
101 – metres gained with ball in hand by Duhan van der Merwe on his Scotland debut. Georgia became the first Test side to find out just how difficult it is to contain the giant winger who made two clean breaks, beat three defenders and scored the first of his (so far) 18 tries for the national team.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here with player ratings here.

Officials

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Tual Trainini (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Ludovic Cayre (France)
TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)

While penalty counts with M. Raynal as the man in the middle have been relatively positive, results have tended towards the massively disappointing. Scotland are still waiting for their first win against anyone other than Argentina in a Test that the French official has taken charge of. This will be M. Raynal’s first time refereeing an international match at Murrayfield – no doubt he will get a warm welcome…

Scotland’s previous games with M. Raynal in charge:

  • 2012 – lost to Tonga (H)
    Penalties: 37 (For 25 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Tonga 3 YCs
  • 2017 – lost to England (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 5 – 13 Against)
    Cards: Fraser Brown (YC)
  • 2018 – beat Argentina (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 10 – 8 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
    Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Wales 1 YC
  • 2020 – lost to Ireland (A)
    Penalties: 23 (For 9 – 14 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2022 – beat Argentina (A)
    Penalties: 21 (For 12 – 9 Against)
    Cards: Argentina 1 YC

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week following both team announcements.

The Teams

Scotland: Ollie Smith, Darcy Graham, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ben White; Jamie Bhatti, Dave Cherry, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey.
Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Rory Sutherland, Javan Sebastian, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Ben Healy, Chris Harris

10 Responses

  1. Hopefully choice of photo doesn’t impact future games (Darcy dropping out). Please don’t use Fin till after the World Cup!

  2. just worry about injuries and red cards for this one. Think I would have held Finn back for sure. That aside, lets hope for a convincing win

  3. Watching SA v NZ……oh boy!…Can’t see how playing Georgia in any way sets us up for how tough the SA match will be. SA are really ramping up for the RWC.

    Think we’ll stand a better chance v Ireland…and thats not looking great either.

    1. Agreed, watching SA just now and it doesn’t look good for progressing from the group! I had been hoping the red cards and injuries would have been the other way round and helped us out a bit. That said, it was a bit of a weird game with so many penalties and NZ can’t have lost that many line outs in a season let alone a game for a very long time. SA physicality was off the scale.

      1. Yes.. SA physicality blew NZ off the park…..thats said it was pretty weird match. I lost count of the amount of times SAs rush defense looked offside without being penalized.

    2. Those all blacks were just a bunch of sleepy heided sheep shearing loosers, but that is not us, no never, you see ,we have guile and cunning trickery on our side. Shoey et all have been teaching us Afrikaans, we will disrupt their calls, intercept their messages , send erroneous ones, call for the ball, decry their parentage, send insults and get a yellow card fight going without raising a finger. There is more than one way to win.

      ‘jou vrou is ‘n stewel’ How easy was that.

      1. Amen.

        Am glad they thrashed the All Blacks. Thrilling to have them first game up, with the whole tournament watching.

        Not every team gets to play in the World Cup Final, this is Scotland’s.

  4. 3 x YCs and a stupid loose pass in your own 22 (all in the 1st half) is exactly what not to do against this South Africa.

    Against 14 men SA are obviously more formidable, shows the absolute necessity of keeping your discipline /getting the basics right

    Siya Kolisi is an inspirational captain /person and his return to for/fitness makes Scotlands task all the harder.

    Still we have shown we are a very good team and Finn’s right when he said “we will have be be ‘hot'”

    Graham VDM Jones are all world class and just need to get Finn on the ball with a wee bit space.

    GT has learnt / been lucky and we go into this world cup in a much better place than the last one. However the 2019 debacle is the reason we are in this group.

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