All you need to know about the Group A match at Parc y Scarlets
Autumn Nations Cup Wales v Georgia Preview
Only 14 months have passed since Wales and Georgia last played each other, but much has changed in that time.
Both sides now have new coaches – Wayne Pivac taking over from Warren Gatland in the Wales set-up and Levan Maisashvili succeeding Milton Haig with the Lelos – and there are new faces on the field too.
Only a third of the Wales starting XV that beat Georgia 43-14 at last year’s World Cup will also line up at Parc y Scarlets for kick-off on Saturday evening as Pivac looks to use the Autumn Nations Cup to build the depth of his squad for France 2023, while less than half of Georgia’s starters from that 2019 match will play this weekend.
And while that victory set Wales on the road to the semi-finals in Japan, more recently they have lost six straight matches – their worst run since 2012-13. Pivac is banking on an exciting, if inexperienced back-line, to bring that losing streak to an end this weekend.
One of the more damning statistics from last week’s defeat is that they were in Ireland’s 22 on six occasions and failed to come away with points from any of them, so he is looking to the likes of Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins and Louis Rees-Zammit to be clinical in attack against a Georgian team that has suffered heavy defeats by Scotland and England in recent weeks.
Earlier in the year, there were glimpses of the creativity Pivac is known for – and that was so evident during his time at the Scarlets – but not so much in the latter part of 2020.
Of course, to implement that attacking game, they need decent first-phase ball, which was sorely lacking in Dublin as Wales were exposed at scrum time.
Wales’ front row for this game – Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee and Samson Lee – have 100 caps between and will be looking to avoid the severe test a young Welsh pack underwent when the two sides last met on Welsh soil. That was in November 2017 and Wales were put under a lot of pressure by Georgia, the hosts holding on for a narrow and unconvincing 13-6 victory.
A tight result like that in Llanelli would be a welcome change for Georgia. They have already leaked 40 points to each of Scotland and England this autumn, with their renowned scrum not yet living up to the hype.
Georgia have been calling for more opportunities to face top-tier nations and while these experiences are sure to help them going forward, the results make pretty grim reading right now. They will be hoping it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.
What’s the big team news?
Wayne Pivac has made wholesale changes to the Wales team, with Liam Williams and Justin Tipuric the only players who lined up against Ireland to also start against Georgia.
There are three new caps in the starting XV – Johnny William, Kieran Hardy and James Botham (grandson of cricketing great Ian) – as well as another on the bench in Ioan Lloyd. Callum Sheedy makes his first start at fly-half, as does Louis Rees-Zammit on the wing.
After the 40-0 defeat by England, Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili has made five changes to the team to play Wales. Sandro Todua and Vasil Lobzhanidze come into the back-line while Jaba Bregvadze, Konstantine Mikautadze and Otar Giorgadze start in the pack.
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What have the coaches said?
Wales coach Wayne Pivac: “Saturday is a huge opportunity for the players and for us as a squad looking ahead to the future and to RWC 2023. We have said all along that the Autumn Nations Cup is a great platform for us to give opportunities to players, to build depth and experience.”
Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili: “Game management still remains our main issue, which is logical against such strong opposition as England. If we had made correct decisions, we would have scored points as we had one or two good moments during the game. But we failed to grab that moment.
“I expect Wales to be more diverse in their attacks than they usually are. 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.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Six of Wales’ starting back-line have been given their first cap by Wayne Pivac
- Georgia and Wales both recorded a 91% tackle success rate in their opening Autumn Nations Cup matches, the best rate of any nation
- Since the start of 2018 Johnny McNicholl has racked up more minutes (1,548) on the Parc y Scarlets pitch than any other player
- Akaki Tabutsadze has scored five tries for Georgia this year, placing him level with France’s Charles Ollivon as the leading try-scorer in Test rugby in 2020
- Both Georgia and Wales conceded four scrum penalties in their last matches against England and Ireland respectively
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Wales v Georgia, Saturday 21 November, Parc y Scarlets
The match kicks off at 5.15pm and will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Premier Sports in Ireland, while Welsh language channel S4C will have live coverage too. There is also live match commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sounds.
If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Autumn Nations Cup coverage around the world.
Luke Pearce (England) is the referee for this match and has an all-Irish team alongside him. Andrew Brace and Frank Murphy are his assistants, while Joy Neville will make history as the first female Television Match Official in a major men’s competition.
What are the line-ups?
Wales: Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit; Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Seb Davies, James Botham, Justin Tipuric (captain), Aaron Wainwright.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Davies, Rhys Webb, Ioan Lloyd, Jonah Holmes.
Georgia: Lasha Khmaladze; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Sandro Todua; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Beka Gigashvili, Grigor Kerdikoshvili, Konstantine Mikautadze, Otar Giorgadze, Beka Saginadze, Beka Gorgadze.
Replacements: Giorgi Chkoidze, Guram Gogichashvili, Lekso Kaulashvili, Lasha Jaiani, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Gela Aprasidze, Deme Tapladze, Tamaz Mchedlidze.
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