Fiji v Georgia - teams and prediction
WORLD CUP, ROUND FOUR: Fiji and Georgia enter their showdown in Bordeaux on Friday on quite different emotional trajectories.
Fiji are trying to build on the euphoria of a first World Cup win over Australia and ensure a last-eight place does not slip from their grasp.
On Thursday, Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili said that their draw with Portugal “wasn’t pleasant”.
Fiji’s victory left them second in Group C ahead of Australia on points differential and with a game in hand, against Georgia.
After that, the Wallabies and Fiji both end their group games against Portugal: Australia on Sunday and Fiji in the last game of the first phase a week later.
Under the less frantic schedule at this World Cup, the Flying Fijians have had almost two weeks to come back to earth after beating Australia.
“Previously you would have a short turnaround between games,” said Nacanieli Cawanibuka, Fiji’s strength and conditioning coach, during the gap.
“We have a week off, it’s been really good after they’ve come off such a high against Australia, and they’ve got this week to just recharge.”
The break did not give wing Jiuta Wainiqolo, who limped off with an ankle problem just after half time against Australia, time to recover. He was replaced by Selestino Ravutaumada in the only change to a winning starting XV that Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui made on Thursday.
On the bench, prop Samu Tawake replaced Mesake Doge who suffered a concussion shortly after coming on against Australia.
Maisashvili again made a host of changes. After Georgia lost their group opener to Australia, Maisashvili made eight changes to face Portugal. That game ended in an 18-18 draw. This time he made seven changes.
“Obviously any result other than winning against Portugal would be the same as a defeat. It had an impact on the players, on myself. It wasn’t pleasant,” said Maisashvili.
Raiwalui was not interested in looking back to the victory over Australia as he unveiled his team.
“We take one match at a time and we respect each team that we play,” he said.
“There’s no harder or easier games and Georgia are a very tough team. We’ve had that mindset since we started, just taking one task at a time.”
Raiwalui and his players said they were looking forward to a muscular battle.
“They love to play with that physicality. Something we like to do as well.”
Flank Lekima Tagitagivalu said he knew how he wanted to win.
“They are very physical team, very tough. We need to match that physicality and play well like Fijiana, and try to beat them on the outside,” he said.
Fiji’s extended break coincided with a visit by King Charles III to Bordeaux where he met the squad.
“We actually formed a walkway for him and we escorted him out and the boys sang a prayer song for him,” said Cawanibuka.
“What the boys did is what the warriors back home in their villages back home would do to protect their chief.”
On Saturday, Fiji’s warriors have a pace in the top two in the group to protect.
Players to watch:
For Fiji: Josua Tuisova will want to produce another big performance after his display against Australia. The centre made a team-high 10 carries for 123 metres, and five defenders were beaten against Australia. He is the leading try-scorer at World Cup 2023 with two and will be looking to equal the Fijian World Cup tournament try-scorer record of four, shared by Viliama Satala in 1999 and Vereniki Goneva in 2011. Wing Semi Radradra is a force at the breakdown and can win crucial penalties for his team. Selesitino Ravutaumada was incredible against Wales and returns to the starting XV. Just like his partner, the wing is extremely lethal outwide, making 111 carry metres, including 98 metres past the gain-line against Wales. In the pack, Luke Tagi, Samuel Matavesi and Eroni Mawi would want to be solid as they go up against some formidable front row opposition.
For Georgia: Scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze and flyhalf Luka Matkava, who started the first game but dropped to the bench against Portugal, are in the starting XV. Matkava can be very lethal at 10, he has made the joint-third most offloads (5) of any player after three rounds. The wing Davit Niniashvili has been responsible for much of Georgia’s attack making the second-most carries (33) and third-most metres (315) and defenders beaten (16) of any player after three rounds. Georgia will look to No.8 Tornike Jalagonia to lead the defence, he has not missed a tackle at World Cup 2023, completing all 29 attempts. Captain Mikheil Nariashvili has put in some big performances and he will again urge his side to put in one solid show.
Key RWC info:
- Fiji remain unmoved in eighth in the World Rugby rankings, while Georgia have dropped one place to 14th following their draw last match.
- This will be only the seventh time these two teams have met, but the fourth time on neutral soil. Fiji and Georgia have only hosted this match on three occasions, with two games in Suva in 2016 and 2018 and one in Tbilisi in 2012.
- Fiji have scored 21 tries across their past four tests against Georgia since 2018, averaging 5.3 per game, while conceding only six.
- Georgia were held tryless in their 15-15 draw, with all their points coming from penalty goals. They have never failed to score a try in back-to-back games against Fiji, with at least one in five of their past six meetings.
- Georgia’s only test victory came in 2016 – this is the only time they have kept Fiji tryless.
- The first half in all six matches have been tight contests, with no more than nine points separating either side at half-time.
@rugby365com: Fiji by 10 points
Fiji: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Selesitino Ravutaumada, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), 12 Josua Tuisova, 11 Semi Radradra, 10 Teti Tela, 9 Simione Kuruvoli, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Lekima Tagitagivalu, 5 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Luke Tagi, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Eroni Mawi
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Samu Tawake, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Vilimoni Botitu, 23 Vinaya Habosi
Georgia: 15 Miriani Modebadze, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Demur Tapladze, 12 Giorgi Kveseladze, 11 Davit Niniashvili, 10 Luka Matkava, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Tornike Jalagonia, 7 Beka Saginadze, 6 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Lasha Jaiani, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Tengizi Zamtaradze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili (captain)
Replacements: 16 Luka Nioradze, 17 Nika Abuladze, 18 Irakli Aptsiauri, 19 Nodar Cheishvili, 20 Luka Ivanishvili, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Tedo Abzhandadze, 23 Tornike Kakhoidze
Date: Saturday, September 30
Venue: Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 GMT; 21.00 GET; 3.45 Monday, September 18 FJT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa) & Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)
Additional sources: AFP & @WorldRugby