The Fijians make their long-awaited Autumn Nations Cup bow at BT Murrayfield


Autumn Nations Cup Georgia v Fiji Preview

Georgia and Fiji may be playing to avoid bottom spot in the Autumn Nations Cup final standings, but there are high expectations for this match at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.

There was much excitement around Fiji’s involvement in the tournament, only for their three pool matches – against France, Italy and Scotland – to be cancelled because of a Covid-19 outbreak in the camp.

They have now been cleared to make their long-awaited Autumn Nations Cup bow and will kick off finals weekend at midday in Edinburgh.

Whereas Georgia have been able to develop match fitness with four games in five weeks, Fiji haven’t played a Test in more than a year, are under a new coaching team headed up by Vern Cotter and their preparations have been hampered by the Covid isolation period. Yet, as Argentina proved against New Zealand, freshness can also be an advantage.

These two nations have become familiar foes over the past few years, their most recent meeting coming at last year’s World Cup when Semi Radradra was central to a 45-10 victory.

Many have been calling for more running rugby this autumn and Fiji could be the team to deliver it with star quality across the board from nine to 15. If they get quick ball and click into gear, their involvement in the tournament will be well worth the wait.

However, if Georgia’s pack is able to dominate the set-piece and close-quarter exchanges, as they did at times against Ireland, Fiji will lack the possession with which to launch that back-line.

It could be an intriguing clash of styles.

What’s the big team news?

Vern Cotter has named an incredibly strong back-line with the likes of Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra and Nemani Nadolo. Up front, there isn’t quite the same inexperience with three players making their debuts – flankers Johnny Dyer and Mesulame Kunavula as well as second-row Temo Mayanavanua.

There are also six uncapped players on the bench in Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hetet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa and Simione Kuruvoli.

The Georgians are without their standout No 8 Beka Gorgadze, who suffered a serious knee injury against Ireland. It’s a big blow as he had made more than twice as many carries (32) as any other Georgian player in the Autumn Nations Cup. Tornike Jalagonia, who turns 22 next week and has played in only three Tests, comes in for him.

The only change in the back-line sees Sandro Todua come onto the wing. Centres Merab Sharikadze and Giorgi Kveseladze, who made 39 tackles between them against Ireland, are likely to be kept similarly busy by Fiji’s backs!

What have the coaches said?

Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili: “Fiji obviously is a very tough and dangerous opposition and if we let them control the ball, clearly they are capable of causing us some serious trouble. They have brilliant individualist players who can be very dangerous, thus we will need to confront them with our strength.”

Fiji coach Vern Cotter: “We have a very established back-line who have played together for many Tests and I expect them to be lethal if given quality possession.

“The battle will start up front. The forwards are the first group that I’m really concerned about because we know they will be going to drive our lineouts and dominate our scrum and attack when we have the ball so we can’t get the ball out to our exciting back-line.”

Any interesting statistics?

  • Nemani Nadolo, who hasn’t played for Fiji since 2018, is his country’s third highest try-scorer with 19 behind Sanivalati Laulau (20) and Vereniki Goneva (22).
  • Fiji have only failed to score a try in a Test once since 2012 – and that was against Georgia in June 2016. That Test is also Georgia’s only win over Fiji to date – they have lost the other three.
  • Fiji skipper Semi Radradra beat more defenders (29) than any other player at the 2019 World Cup.
  • Georgia’s try against Ireland, scored by centre Giorgi Kveseladze, was overwhelmingly voted Try of the Round.

What time does it kick off and is it on TV?

Georgia v Fiji, Saturday 5 December, BT Murrayfield

The match kicks off at midday and will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Premier Sports in Ireland. If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Autumn Nations Cup coverage around the world.

Mike Adamson will referee the match with fellow Scot Sam Grove-White and Italy’s Andrea Piardi as his assistants. Brian MacNeice (Ireland) is the Television Match Official.

What are the line-ups?

Georgia: Soso Matiashvili; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Sandro Todua; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Lasha Jaiani, Kote Mikautadze, Otar Giorgadze, Beka Saginadze, Tornike Jalaghonia.

Replacements: Jaba Bregvadze, Guram Gogichashvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Grigol Kerdikoshvili, Mikheil Gachechiladze, Gela Aprasidze, Demur Tapladze, Davit Niniashvili.

Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu; Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra (captain), Levani Botia, Nemani Nadolo; Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani; Peni Ravai, Samuel Matavesi, Mesake Doge, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanu, Johnny Dyer, Mesulame Kunavula, Albert Tuisue.

Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hetet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Simione Kuruvoli, Seru Vularika, Waisea Nayacalevu.

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