Preview: Australia v Georgia
WORLD CUP POOL MATCH: Escaping an incoming super typhoon, Australia will warm up for the quarterfinals with a last Pool D outing on Friday against “tough” Georgia.
World Rugby took the unprecedented step Thursday of cancelling two games – England v France and New Zealand v Italy – as Japan braces for Super Typhoon Hagibis, likely the biggest storm to hit the country this year.
But the match in Shizuoka on Friday will take place before the typhoon hits, avoiding cancellation and handing the Wallabies a useful run-out against a competitive Georgian side playing for pride.
Wales’ 29-17 victory over Fiji on Wednesday ensured Australia a quarterfinal place, with the Welsh likely advancing as pool winners should they see off minnows Uruguay in Kumamoto on Sunday.
With some pressure lifted, the Australia players will still be performing with an eye on making the team for the likely quarterfinal against Pool C winners England in Oita on October 19.
With that in mind, the Wallabies made two late changes on Thursday, bringing in Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Rob Simmonds for Michael Hooper and Adam Coleman on the bench, both of whom were said to be carrying minor niggles.
Assistant coach Simon Raiwaluni added that the niggles were “nothing too major, but with that [quarterfinal berth] confirmed, we decided to go that way”.
Experienced Australia prop Sekope Kepu was under no illusion of what awaited the team: “Georgia has a great scrum and a great forward pack
“They are tough buggers and they don’t really take any crap from anybody.”
‘Nothing to lose’
Georgia opened their campaign with a 43-14 defeat by Wales before beating Uruguay 33-7 and then going down 45-10 to Fiji.
Australia meanwhile beat Fiji 39-21 in their opener before a nail-biting 29-25 loss to the Welsh and a 45-10 win over the Uruguayans.
Former Toulon flank Mamuka Gorgodze, who came out of retirement to play for Milton Haig’s Georgia in Japan, said his World Cup had been tinged with disappointment.
“The objective was to win against Fiji,” said the 35-year-old.
“I was also disappointed against Wales because we gave away too many tries on the first phase.”
Gorgodze said his team, however, had everything to play for against the Wallabies.
“Australia is a huge team. We are all excited and there is nothing to lose. You can’t not be excited at a World Cup but to play Australia is something special,” he said.
“I have huge respect for them and I’m looking forward to testing my ageing muscles against the young Australians.”
One of those young Australians will be teenage wing sensation Jordan Petaia, one of 10 personnel changes to their starting XV from the match against Uruguay.
Georgia only made two changes to the starting XV which played against Fiji, Haig saying he had plumped for experience.
“With big matches, experience counts,” he said.
“Australia is a team that has a reputation for being one of the top four teams in the world over the decades.
“They are a quality side but, as the boys have said, this is the last opportunity for us to go home with our heads held high.”
Players to watch
For Australia: Australia made two late changes to their team – withdrawing flank Michael Hooper and lock Adam Coleman from their match-day 23. Hooper’s place on the bench will be taken by Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, while Coleman will be replaced by Rob Simmonds.
Only four players survive from the starting XV that beat Uruguay. Teenager Jordan Petaia moves from left to the right wing and veteran flank David Pocock takes the captain’s armband. Matt To’omua moved from inside centre to flyhalf in what will be a first combination with scrumhalf Nic White and the 11th halfback pairing used by Australia since the 2015 World Cup.
For Georgia: Coach Milton Haig has selected virtually the same starting XV who lost against Fiji. Scrumhalf Gela Aprasidze replaces Vasil Lobzhanidze, and Beka Saginadze comes in for Giorgi Tkhilaishvili in the back row. Both Lobzhanidze and Tkhilaishvili drop to the bench. Merab Sharikadze is the first of Georgia’s three skippers at RWC 2019 to retain the captaincy for a second match. Inside centre Sharikadze missed Georgia’s first game against Wales and came on from the bench in the victory over Uruguay. Outside-centre David Kacharava will win his 119th cap, extending his record. Back row forward Otari Giorgadze drops to the bench for what could be the final Lelos game for experienced quartet Mamuka Gorgodze, David Kacharava, Shalva Mamukashvili and Giorgi Nemsadze. Gorgodze will play his 15th World Cup match, equalling the Georgian record held by Merab Kvirikashvili.
Head to head
Two legends of the game – David Pocock (Australia) and Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia) – will go head to head on the flank, although their styles are vastly different. Flyhalves Matt To’omua (Australia) and Lasha Khmaladze (Georgia) will literally play pivotal roles.
These teams have never previously met.
Prediction: The Wallabies will look to build some momentum ahead of the quarterfinals and will want progress with a bang. Australia should win by 30 points.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda. 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmonds, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Will Genia, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.
Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Giorgi Kveseladze, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Gela Aprasidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Beka Saginadze, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Otari Giorgadze, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Lasha Malaguradze, 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze.
Date: Friday, October 11
Venue: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka Prefecture
Kick-off: 19.45 (10.45 GMT; 14.45 Georgia time; 21.45 AEST)
Expected weather: Cloudy and humid, with afternoon showers. High of 28°C and low of 23°C
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)