Preview: Azzurri vs Lelos
It is a match with greater significance than a first glance may suggest. It is a Six Nations team playing Europe’s next best, almost a promotion-relegation match.
Italy came rock bottom in the Six Nations with just 1 (one) little point. Georgia are the top team in Rugby Europe’s top competition in which the competing teams are Georgia, Romania, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Russia. It is sometimes referred to as the Six Nations B.
There are having growing suggestions that there be promotion-relegation between the Six Nations and Rugby Europe’s Six Nations, this year between Italy and Georgia.
That means there is something extra at stake in this match.
Georgia has great home support. In its five matches it netted nearly 130 000 spectators or an average of 26 000 per match . They take their rugby seriously in a country that once belonged to the USSR.
They also have players playing provincial rugby abroad, especially in France where there are 15. Mostly they are forwards, especially props. Of the 23 Georgians chosen to play Italy, 18 play outside of Georgia in France, England, Russia and Japan.
Italy have only two players playing abroad but while the Georgian players are all Georgians, Italy has a handful of foreigners.
Italy will not find the Georgian pack push-overs. In fact, Italy may well have a tough time.
It is an interesting match, all right, and may decide opinions about Georgia’s future, perhaps even as a member of the Seven Nations.
This year Georgia won all five of its matches, scoring 188 points to 25. Italy lost all of its five matches, scoring 92 points to 203.
When the teams met before, in 2003, Italy won 31-22.
Italy: 15 Luca Sperandio (Benetton), 14 Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton), 13 Michele Campagnaro (Unattached), 12 Tommaso Castello (Zebre), 11 Mattia Bellini (Zebre), 10 Tommaso Allan (Benetton), 9 Tito Tebaldi (Benetton), 8 Braam Steyn (Benetton), 7 Jake Polledri (Gloucester), 6 Sebastian Negri (Benetton), 5 Dean Budd (Benetton), 4 Alessandro Zanni (Benetton), 3 Simone Ferrari (Benetton), 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse) (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti (Zebre)
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi (Benetton), 17 Cherif Traorè (Benetton), 18 Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton), 19 Marco Fuser (Benetton), 20 Johan Meyer (Zebre), 21 Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre), 22 Carlo Canna (Zebre), 23 Luca Morisi (Benetton)
Georgia: 15 Iosed Matiashvili (Lelo Saracens), 14 Giorgi Koshadze (Kharebi Rustavi), 13 Merab Sharikadze (Aurillac) (captain), 12 Tamaz Mchedlidze (Agen), 11 Zurabi Dzneladze (Lokomotiv Tblisi), 10 Lasha Khmaladze (Batumi), 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze (Brive), 8 Beka Gorgadze (Bordeaux), 7 Giorgi Tsutskiridze (Aurillac), 6 Otari Giorgadze (Brive), 5 Lasha Lomidze (Aurillac), 4 Nodar Cheishvili (Cornish Pirates), 3 Davit Kubriashvili (Grenoble), 2 Jaba Bregvadze (Sunwolves), 1 Mikheil Nariashvili (Montpellier)
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili (Enisey Krasnoyarsk), 17 Zurabi Zhvania (Wasps), 18 Levan Chilachava (Montpellier), 19 Shalva Sutiashvili (Angouleme), 20 Beka Bitsadze (Narbonne), 21 Gela Aprasidze (Montpellier), 22 Lasha Malaguradze (Yar Krasnoyarsk), 23 Giorgi Kveseladze (Armazi Marneuli)
Date: Saturday, 10 November 2018
Venue: Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Expected weather conditions: Pleasant for rugby – partly cloudy with a high of 21°C and a low of 11°C
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)