Match preview: Scotland v Georgia, Autumn Tests 2016

KO 2.30 at Rugby Park, Saturday 26th November
Live on BBC 2

This game will make or break Scotland’s Autumn Test series. Win and they can point to 2 victories and an agonising late defeat to one of the top 3 sides in the world. Lose and everything will be tainted. The win over Argentina will become a fortunate escape against a tired and out of form side. The Australia game just another inevitable loss. With the Georgians doubtless targeting this match as an opportunity to prove their credentials for inclusion in an extended Six Nations,  there is no room for complacency.

SCOTLAND
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Sean Maitland
13 Mark Bennett
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Tommy Seymour
10 Finn Russell
9 Greig Laidlaw (c)
GEORGIA
15 Kvirikashvili
14 Aptsiauri
13 Sharikadze
12 Mtchedlize
11 Todua
10 Malaghuradze
9 Lobzhanidze

1 Allan Dell
2 Ross Ford
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Richie Gray
5 Jonny Gray
6 Robert Harley
7 Hamish Watson
8 Ryan Wilson

1 Nariashvili
2 Bregvadze
3 Chilachava
4 Mikautadze
5 Nemsadze
6 Kolelishvili
7 Gorgodze (c)
8 Bitsadze

16 Fraser Brown
17 Alex Allan
18 Moray Low
19 Grant Gilchrist
20 John Barclay
21 Ali Price
22 Peter Horne
23 Rory Hughes

16 Alkhazashvili
17 Asieshvili
18 Kubriashvili
19 Lomidze
20 Tkhilaishvili
21 Begadze
22 Tsiklauri
23 Sutiashvili

Overall

Backs – advantage Scotland
After a flying start to the Autumn Tests in the first half against Australia, the Scottish backs have been starved of ball for the last 120 minutes. Will the Rugby Park surface allow them to up the pace against Georgia?
Forwards – even
Georgia will expect to be stronger at scrum time – but if Scotland cut out the handling errors and pin the Lelos back with intelligent kicking this advantage can be minimised. The changes made in the pack by Vern Cotter will strengthen the Scottish lineout and the breakdown and it’s essential they come out on top in these areas.
Substitutes – advantage Scotland
There will be little drop off in quality for the Georgian pack – but it will be more of the same for them. With Fraser Brown and John Barclay to come on Scotland will have scavengers who will look to benefit from the game breaking up. Ali Price will pick up the tempo in the backs – if the Georgian pack have been moved around the park and tired out for 60/70 minutes he could be their worst nightmare…

Team Talk

  • Scotland make 4 changes from the 23 that took on Argentina with Richie Gray and Rory Hughes returning plus Mark Bennett and Robert Harley featuring for the first time this Autumn.
  • First caps: Ali Price (Scotland cap no. 1079 – surely this time?)
  • Georgia make a single change to their backline with Aptsiauri coming in and retain the same pack that demolished the Samoan scrum last week.

Previous results
This will be just the 2nd time these sides have met in a full international after their rainy encounter in the pool stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, in a game so unremittingly dull there aren’t even any highlights on YouTube…

Scotland 15-6 Georgia

Ross Ford (starter) and Richie Gray (sub) are the only Scots who played in that match who will return for Scotland on Saturday. Bregvadze, Gorgodze and Kubriashvili are the Georgians who have shown sufficient longevity to make it from Rugby Park in Invercargill to Rugby Park in Kilmarnock.

Stats to study

Drop goals:
Scotland 1 Georgia 0
This was the first of 4 drop goals in a month for Scotland. Back in the day it was a regular part of their armoury. Coincidentally (or not) since Dan Parks retired 1 match after that RWC the dark blues have only scored a single drop goal in their last 57 matches. This may go some way to explaining why they struggled so much to put the ball over against Argentina…

Turnovers:
Scotland 17 Georgia 8
Conditions may have been poor but there was little excuse for some fairly shambolic handling which killed any chance Scotland had of bringing fluency and attacking poise to the game. That error count probably needs to be 10 or less at Rugby Park if the home side are going to really benefit from their strength in the backline.

Penalties:
Scotland 6 Georgia 14
With Scotland struggling to make an impact due to a case of the dropsies it was Georgian indiscipline that allowed them to ultimately carve out a winning position. The Lelos coaching staff will have spent all were urging their side to minimise their transgressions – Scotland need to put them under so much pressure that penalties become inevitable.

Georgia scouting report:

  • The Lelos are currently ranked 10th in the world.
  • They are operating with what amounts to a top 4 scrum, a top 8 pack but a backline that would probably be in the lower reaches of the top 20.
  • They will come into the match with a winning mentality having only lost once in 10 Tests this year, including a 3 Test Paific Islands tour and beating Samoa last week.
  • Defeat to Japan earlier in November will rankle though as they missed the opportunity to firmly establish themselves as the strongest side in world rugby outwith the 6 Nations and The Rugby Championship.
  • Scotland did well containing Argentina’s primary ball carrier, Facundo Isa, last time out. The defence will need to step up to another level though if they’re going to stop Georgia’s main man, Mamuka Gorgodze, a beast of a carrier and the inspiration for much of what the Men of Borjgali have achieved in the last decade.

Officials:

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), Dan Jones (WRU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

This will be Mr. Carley’s 2nd Test match as the man in the middle after he made his international debut with USA v Russia in Sacramento. He has refereed more than 50 times in the Aviva Premiership where he averages 1.3 yellow cards per game – just slightly above average for the competition. He did send 4 players to the sin bin in his first match though – hopefully he doesn’t feel the need to stamp his authority on this game in the same way…


Picture courtesy of Adrian Henry for Rugby People.

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