Ireland v Georgia - Teams and Predictions
NATIONS CUP, ROUND THREE: Billy Burns’ ability to direct Ireland’s play in his first Test start against Georgia should not be in doubt given the fearless manner he showed in dealing with his father as a teenage referee.
Burns has a golden opportunity to stake a claim to be the long-term successor to Johnny Sexton when the flyhalf finally decides to call time on his career.
The 26-year-old has impressed in his two performances coming off the bench in the Nations Cup, including against England, where he was born, and has earned a starting spot for Sunday’s match.
Burns played for the England Under-20 side that won the 2014 world championship, “battering” the Irish along the way, in his words.
But Ireland have always been on his radar.
“My father has always worn the Ireland shirt,” Burns said before last week’s England game, which Ireland lost 7-18.
Jerry, whose father hailed from Cork, gave his each of four sons an Ireland shirt along with an England one when they were young.
It was in another shirt that Jerry and Billy had their contretemps, when he was asked to referee his father’s club side’s game at the age of 15 after the official referee failed to show up.
“I said ‘dad I’m so scared, I don’t want to do it – I’m so scared’,” Burns told the Irish Independent.
“He said ‘don’t worry about it – if anyone gives you any backchat, I’ll come over and sort it out’.
“First kick-off it goes off and I give a penalty against Oldfield [Jerry’s club] to the other team, and who’s the first one to come over shouting in my face but my old man.
“So I blew him up and sent him back 10 metres.”
𝗕𝗕𝟭𝟬 🔥 🔟
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 26, 2020
‘Ability to mix in’
Burns’ display of authority that day has transferred itself into professional rugby. He made more than 100 appearances for English Premiership side Gloucester before the bold move to Belfast-based Ulster in 2018.
The impending arrival of the mercurial Danny Cipriani forced his hand but the decision proved the right one.
The calm authority he exudes, which he has shown in his two Tests so far, is referred to by Ulster and Ireland teammate Iain Henderson.
“I’ve great admiration for him taking a leap of faith and backing himself and coming over,” said Henderson.
“He’s worked incredibly hard for what he’s got over the last couple of years at Ulster.
“He’s really fitting into 10, into that commander role if you like, and a lot of the players up in Ulster respect him.”
Henderson said Burns was experienced for a player of his age and had the knack of getting on with others.
“I think his ability to mix in with all the players and get on with them so well gives the players a reason to follow him or a reason to follow the example he sets,” he said.
Burns is the youngest of his brothers but is not the first to play international rugby for a country other than that of his birth – Sam was capped by Cyprus, where he served with the Royal Air Force.
Freddie, who won five caps for England, says his youngest sibling will forever be “Little Bill”.
“He’s [Billy] very assured and never looks too flustered,” Freddie told the Daily Telegraph.
“I guess, maybe, the difference between us might be that he’s happy to go through games almost unknown.
“You’ll look back at his game and he’ll have managed it very well, happy being the puppeteer pulling the strings.”
Players to watch
For Ireland: Billy Burns gets a start after impressing off the bench in his last two matches. A strong performance could cement his place in Ireland’s matchday 23 going forward. The spotlight in the backline will also fall on Jacob Stockdale, who gets another chance to grow in the No.15 jersey. In the pack, CJ Stander will cause Georgia plenty of problems with his aggression at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
For Georgia: Veteran hooker Shalva Mamukashvili returns as one of the quartet of changes in the scrum. There is also a fresh second-row pairing of Nodar Cheishvili, who returns from injury, and Lasha Jaiani. The two changes in the backs mean fullback Soso Matiashvili will win his 29th cap after recovering from injury, while Tamaz Mchedlidze makes his first start of the competition on the wing.
Head to Head
The flyhalf battle is always key and Tedo Abzhandadze will try and put some pressure on Billy Burns in what will be a big day for Ireland’s flyhalf.
@rugby365com: Ireland by 20 points.
Ireland: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Will Connors, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Finlay Bealham.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ross Byrne, 22 Shane Daly.
Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Tornike Jalagonia, 6 Beka Saginadze, 5 Lasha Jaiani, 4 Nodar Cheishvili, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Giorgi Chkoidze, 17 Lexo Kaulashvili, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Giorgi Javakhia, 20 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 21 Mikheil Alania, 22 Demur Tapladze, 23 David Niniashvili
Date: Sunday, November 29
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.00 (15.00 Georgia time; 14.00 GMT)
Expected weather: More clouds than sun. A high of 11°C. Winds light and variable.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Andrea Piardi
TMO: Marius Mitrea
AFP & @rugby365com