View from next door: Georgia

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Well, my psychic streak is over! Having successfully foreseen a Wales reaction against Argentina last week, I certainly didn’t think Wayne Pivac’s side would slip backwards so quickly and so viciously as they did against Georgia on Saturday.

In the pantheon of famously embarrassing Welsh rugby losses; Romania 1988, Western Samoa 1991, Samoa 1999, Italy 2003, Fiji 2007, Italy 2022, off the top of my head, this one will rank pretty highly especially given the context of beating Los Pumas last week and giving hope to a nation that a base had finally been found to build from towards the Rugby World Cup next year.

Pivac’s team selection seemed to point to that building towards France 2023, opting against the raft of changes that we tend to expect for an Autumn clash with tier two opposition, and going with just four tactical changes in the starting XV, however where he received praise from me for his choices last week, that has faded away now.

The back row selection was all wrong with, ultimately, nobody playing number eight. Josh MacLeod wore the number, Justin Tipuric packed down in the position, but turning up at international level against whoever the opponent is and expecting to be successful without even a semblance of a primary ball carrier is naive at best, and arrogant at worst.

In the end that resulted in a first half attack that was so lateral it had crabs suing for copyright infringement, retaining possession for long periods of touchline-to-touchline action without really looking like making a line break or forcing Georgia into conceding a penalty before either turning the ball over in the contact area or kicking possession away needlessly.

It just about did a job, thanks to the one-off moments of a lineout front peel and Tomos Williams linking up with Jac Morgan on a heads-up play, but even they evaporated after the break as Wales seemed to totally stop playing altogether and slowly accept their fate.

Pivac’s substitutions were haphazard at best; taking Dillon Lewis off after 45 minutes for Sam Wainwright who now has more minutes at international level than he has in the Gallagher Premiership, introducing Sam Costelow just as Georgia made it a two-point game but taking off Josh Adams for Leigh Halfpenny in the same breath, confusing whether Wales were pushing on or managing the final quarter.

Take nothing away from The Lelos though, they played the percentages, made very few errors, earned the upper hand at the set piece as the contest went on, and took their chances when presented. It was a thoroughly deserved victory and showed the benefit of a country’s governing body investing in the club game with the Georgians now competing in the Rugby Europe Super Cup and the South African Currie Cup.

For Wales it’s just another in an increasing number of lows as we stumble towards the Rugby World Cup desperately relying on reactions from poor performances to either nick a result here and there or secure the “brave losers” moniker that an increasing number of people around the country seem happy settling for, such is the depth we have fallen to.

Perhaps the new tactic for Wayne Pivac should not be considering “how do we build tactically for France 2023?”, but rather “how do we build emotionally for France 2023?”. The answer – lose every game between now and then before utilising all our emotional energy tokens on seven wins at the tournament.

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