The tournament’s group stages conclude in Dublin on Sunday afternoon
Autumn Nations Cup Ireland v Georgia Preview
The Autumn Nations Cup has delivered Georgia’s wish of more Tests against top-tier nations. However, the Lelos have not yet delivered the competitive performances they were hoping for.
In fact, they have not scored a single point in their two matches in the competition so far – this after previously failing to score in a Test only twice in their history. Add a 48-7 defeat by Scotland in October to their Autumn Nations Cup losses to England (40-0) and Wales (18-0), and an aggregate scoreline of 106-7 does not make positive reading for Georgia.
So can Georgia change their fortunes in their final Group A game against Ireland in Dublin this weekend? The omens are not good.
In their three previous Tests in Dublin – the most recent in 2014 – Georgia have lost by a margin of 42 points or more. Ireland have also won 19 of their previous 20 Tests at home, their most recent defeat at the Aviva Stadium coming against England in February 2019.
Still, Georgia will be hoping to channel the spirit of Bordeaux in 2007 when they pushed Ireland close before losing 14-10 at that year’s World Cup.
They may see the selection of Finlay Bealham at loosehead as a potential area to exploit given that most of his international experience has come at tighthead, but Georgia’s scrum has not yet lived up to its reputation this autumn.
Following the 18-7 loss to England, Andy Farrell has made wholesale changes for this match as he tests new combinations, but it is still a strong team and one that looks more than capable of overcoming the Lelos.
It’s unlikely Georgia will produce as resolute a defensive performance as England did last weekend, but the challenge for Ireland is to be more clinical in taking their opportunities. Given their possession and territory stats in the past two games, they should have scored more than three tries.
What’s the big team news?
Another Autumn Nations Cup game, another fly-half for Ireland, with Billy Burns wearing the No 10 shirt after Johnny Sexton had it against Wales and Ross Byrne against England.
This is a first Test start for the Ulster playmaker and he is joined in the back-line by provincial team-mates Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey, who is making his first international appearance since 2018.
Conor Murray starts at scrum-half while the pack features a further five changes to the team that lost at Twickenham, with Finlay Bealham, Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne and Will Connors coming in.
Munster full-back Shane Daly, 23, could make his Ireland debut from the bench while Georgian scrum-half Mikheil Alania, 20, and full-back David Niniashvili, 18, are in line for their first caps too.
Georgia have made six changes to the starting team. Soso Matiashvili is at full-back and Tamaz Mchedlidze is on the wing while in the pack Shalva Mamukashvili, Nodar Cheishvili, Lasha Jaiani and Tornike Jalagonia all start.
What have the coaches said?
Ireland coach Andy Farrell: “We’re excited about this team going out and giving a performance. Righting a few wrongs from last week.
“The obvious ones are getting some continuity from our set-piece. When we’re given the amount of possession that we had, making sure we play with our heads up and see the opportunities. Deliver on executing those opportunities.”
Georgia coaching consultant Neil Doak told the Irish Independent: “We want to win the games, but you’ve got to be realistic. Wales was one game we thought we could keep it really tight and we did, but we, unfortunately, missed four or five counter-attacking opportunities that we didn’t identify.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve tried to change in their mindset. That’s what Levan (Maisashvili, head coach) was focused on in this tournament, their attack structures and counter-attack. Trying to grow that part of the game, because he realises they have to have a little bit more in their game plan to stretch teams because it’s very hard to dominate teams physically.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Ireland have averaged the most possession (60%) and territory (60%) of any team in the Autumn Nations Cup while Georgia have had the least territory (35%).
- Georgia haven’t lost four successive Tests since 2015.
- Georgia made the joint most dominant tackles (26 – the same as England) in the first two rounds of the tournament.
- Four of the top five ball-carriers in the first two rounds of the Autumn Nations Cup play for Ireland – Caelan Doris, Chris Farrell, Hugo Keenan (all 25) and James Lowe (22). Georgia back-row Beka Gorgadze is the other player in the top five with 24.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Ireland v Georgia, Sunday 29 November, Aviva Stadium
The match kicks off at 2pm and will be broadcast live on Channel 4 in the UK and RTE in Ireland.
If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Autumn Nations Cup coverage around the world.
There’s a multicultural officiating team for this match. Mathieu Raynal (France) is the referee, Luke Pearce (England) and Andrea Piardi (Italy) are the assistants while Marius Mitrea (Italy) is the Television Match Official.
What are the line-ups?
Ireland: Jacob Stockdale; Hugo Keenan, Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey, Keith Earls; Billy Burns, Conor Murray; Finlay Bealham, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, James Ryan (captain), Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Peter O’Mahony, Kieran Marmion, Ross Byrne, Shane Daly.
Georgia: Soso Matiashvili; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Tamaz Mchedlidze; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Nodar Cheishvili, Lasha Jaiani, Beka Saginadze, Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Gorgadze.
Replacements: Giorgi Chkoidze, Lexo Kaulashvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Giorgi Javakhia, Mikheil Gachechiladze, Mikheil Alania, Demur Tapladze, David Niniashvili.
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