Preview: Wales v Georgia

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Wales get their World Cup campaign underway on Monday up against Georgia at the Toyota Stadium in Pool D’s second game.

Australia beat Fiji on Saturday to get the pool underway, with Wales seeing the marker put down by the Wallabies, as well as the way the Pacific Islanders pushed them up towards the hour mark and may have been able to go even further but for some suspect refereeing.

Warren Gatland’s men will be looking to respond against a Georgia side who Wales have only played once in history, a 13-6 win at the Principality Stadium in November 2017 with a Hallam Amos try and the boot of Rhys Priestland securing the victory.

At the time there was a large debate raging about whether The Lelos should be considered as a potential Six Nations team, with promotion and relegation introduced, as Georgia have won eight of the 10 Rugby Europe Championships, the second tier competition.

However, that debate has somewhat died down, especially since World Rugby abandoned plans for their Nations Championship that could have offered a route for Georgia into the top tier of European Rugby.

What hasn’t helped The Lelos’ case either is losing 12 consecutive games against tier one opposition since starting to play tests against them on a semi-regular basis following the 2011 World Cup.

Dan Biggar Georgia
Dan Biggar carries against Georgia in 2017

In a bid to rectify that head coach Milton Haig has named a matchday 23 that heavily favours the typically aggressive forwards-dominated style of play that Georgia are famous for.

Props Nariashvili, who captains the side, and Gigashvili play for Montpellier and Toulon, respectively, while lock Mikautadze is also at Montpellier and Gorgadze plays for Bordeaux.

There is also the story of Mamuka Gorogdze, the Toulon player, who returns to play for Georgia three years after retiring from international rugby after a telephone call from the Prime Minister convinced him to return.

Whereas the forwards have plenty of Top14 experience, the backs are largely domestic based, with only half-backs Lobzhanidze and Abzhandadze playing at the top level abroad with Brive, while Mchedlidze is in the French second tier at Rouen.

Regular captain Merab Sharikadze misses out through injury, while replacement tighthead Levan Chilachava will win his 50th cap if called upon.

Georgia: Soso Matiashvili, Miriani Modebadze, David Kacharava, Tamaz Mchedlidze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili (c), Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Giorgi Nemsadze, Konstantine Mikautadze, Giorgi Tkhikaishvili, Mamuka Gorgodze, Beka Gorgadze

Replacements: Jaba Bregvadze, Guram Gogichashvili, Levan Chilachava, Shalva Sutiashvili, Beka Saginadze, Otari Giorgadze, Gela Aprasidze, Lasha Khmaladze

Mamuka Gorgodze Georgia

Wales come into the game as Grand Slam champions and having been the number one ranked team in the world at one point, but also with just one win from the four warm-up games, not that it will bother them massively.

Of course there is also the furore around the sending home of Rob Howley this week for alleged betting offences, with Stephen Jones flying out to replace him as attack coach, and that may well have resulted in the selection of Dan Biggar at fly-half as a pair of safe hands.

The other notable team selections come in the form of Wyn Jones, who is picked ahead of Nicky Smith at loosehead, while Aaron Wainwright gets the nod in the back row with Josh Navidi wearing eight and Ross Moriarty on the bench.

He is joined there by Leigh Halfpenny, leaving either Rhys Patchell or George North to cover at centre should one of Hadleigh Parkes or Jon Davies not be able to complete the game.

Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Aaron Shingler, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Leigh Halfpenny

For Wales the game is about fronting up and meeting Georgia physically, as they will look to get over the gain line consistently and test Shaun Edwards in that respect, before hoping their lack of quality out wide doesn’t let them down.

It will also be a good early test for the set piece, especially the scrum and the maul, which both came in for criticism after the warm-up games, while our own lineout was shaky throughout the Six Nations.

Aside from that though Warren Gatland’s team should have a fitness and quality advantage out wide, with the kicking game of Dan Biggar tiring Georgia out, before the likes of Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell are introduced to take advantage of space produced.

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