Wales v Georgia: Teams and Predictions
NATIONS CUP, ROUND TWO: Wayne Pivac has labelled Wales “our own worst enemies” as his struggling side look to end a damaging losing streak with a victory over Georgia on Saturday.
Normally, a match against the second-tier Lelos would be a chance to experiment safe in the knowledge that the result would take care of itself without too much trouble.
But while Pivac has made 13 changes to his starting XV, Wales will kick off at Llanelli’s Parc Y Scarlets on a run of six straight defeats.
Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has labelled the Georgia match a “must-win” game after a woeful sequence of losses for Pivac’s men continued with a 32-9 defeat by Ireland in their Nations Cup opener in Dublin last week.
It is all a far cry from when Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland, his fellow New Zealander, as head coach last year with Wales having just reached a World Cup semi-final after winning the Six Nations with a Grand Slam.
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“At the moment, we’ve been our own worst enemies,” Pivac told a conference call on Thursday after naming his team to play Georgia.
“We’re giving teams far too much possession and territory and staying in games for long periods even without those stats heavily against us.
“It’s focusing on eliminating mistakes, working hard in training and making good decisions.”
As for the stress of the Wales job, former Scarlets boss Pivac said: “It’s been the same as the Six Nations before lockdown, only you don’t have the crowds.
“There’s also pressure coming into the role. It goes with the territory.
“For me personally, I’m remaining focused on doing what’s best for these players and make sure we give them the environment where they can express themselves, where they can grow and learn as players.”
HARDY: ❝Mae’n bwysig bod y bois sy di ddod mewn yn dangos egni❞
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 19, 2020
Pivac has given a Wales debut to James Botham, the grandson of England cricket great Ian Botham.
The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker, only officially called into the squad on Monday, has played just 13 professional games.
But Pivac has seen enough to give Botham, whose father Liam played for Cardiff, his Test chance.
“We had a good look at James earlier in the campaign,” Pivac said. “He has impressed, he has done very well.
“In [flanks] Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi, we’ve had a couple of guys who have not been able to partake so far, so James has been in and around the group. He is a player with a very big future, we believe.
“In training, he is a very balanced rugby player. He’s got very good hands and movement with the ball, so he is a good attacking threat as well as a very good defensive player.
“He is good over the ball, he’s strong and his technique is sound. He’s a confident young man without being over-confident.
“I’ve been very impressed with just the conversations we have been having, both about rugby and off-field situations – just learning more about the young man. There is a lot to like about him.”
Wales are better than England
Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili believes Wales will have “way more options in attack” compared to England when the struggling sides meet for their Nations Cup clash this weekend.
Six Nations champions England started the tournament with a 40-0 rout of Georgia at Twickenham last weekend, but only one of their six tries came from a backline move, with hooker Jamie George grabbing a hat-trick off the back of rolling mauls.
Wales, meanwhile, suffered a 9-32 defeat by Ireland in Dublin – their sixth successive loss.
But a wary Maisashvili said: “Though they don’t look as good as they used to, we should not let ourselves be misguided by their latest results.
“They have way more options in attack compared to England and we should expect more surprises in static phases, so we have to think more about defence too.”
Maisashvili has made five changes to his side, in what is a rare opportunity for European second-tier kings Georgia to play two leading nations on successive weekends outside of a World Cup.
Scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze, who plays for French club Brive, starts instead of Gela Aprasidze.
Merab Sharikadze continues as captain, the centre paired with Giorgi Kveseladze in midfield.
Elsewhere, Sandro Todua comes off the bench to start at left wing.
Up front, hooker Jaba Bregvadze has been recalled, with Kote Mikautadze in the second row.
And there is a change in the back-row, with Otar Giorgadze joining Beka Saghinadze and Beka Gorgadze.
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Players to watch:
For Wales: This is a match that Wales have to win – they simply have no other choice. James Botham – the grandson of cricket legend Ian Botham – scrumhalf Kieran Hardy and centre Johnny Williams, who will all earn their first cap in Llanelli have a chance to prove their worth. In the absence of captain Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric has to be on top form when he skippers the side on Saturday.
For Georgia: The experienced Vasil Lobzhanidze comes in at scrumhalf to partner Tedo Abzhandadze in the flyhalf berth, as Georgia seek more control in the pivot position.
Head to head:
Having seen how impressive Georgia’s front row was against England, the likes of Samson Lee Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones will have their work cut out for them against Jaba Bregvadze, who has Super Rugby experience with Japanese side the Sunwolves, Mikheil Nariashvili and Beka Gigashvili of Georgia in the front row. In the backline, it will be interesting to see how Georgia’s new halfback pair Tedo Abzhandadze and Vasil Lobzhanidze dictates play against a very unfamiliar partnership Callum Sheedy and Kieran Hardy of Wales.
@rugby365com: Wales win by 15 points
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric (Captain), 6 James Botham, 5 Seb Davies, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Davies, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Jonah Holmes
Georgia: 15 Lasha Khmaladze, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Beka Saghinadze, 6 Otar Giorgadze, 5 Kote Mikautadze, 4 Grigor Kerdikoshvili, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Giorgi Chkoidze, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Lexo Kaulashvili, 19 Lasha Jaiani, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Demur Tapladze, 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze.
Date: Saturday, November 21
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli.
Kick-off: 17.15 (21.15 Georgia Time)
Expected weather: Showers with a high of 13°C and a low of 6°C
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland) & Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Source: AFP & rugby365com