The Georgians will take part in a training camp with Eddie Jones’s squad during the Six Nations fallow week
England to train with Georgia during Six Nations
Eddie Jones labelled Georgia “the biggest, ugliest, strongest scrum pack in the world” when his England squad trained against them last year – and his forwards will test themselves against the Lelos again next week.
Georgia will spend two days training with England in Oxford during the upcoming Six Nations fallow week, the goal being that their back-line benefit from insight from the likes of Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Elliot Daly, while the forwards give the English pack a stern exam.
“We get as much out of it as they do,” says Georgia coach Milton Haig. “With their forwards against our forwards and our backs against their backs, it’s a win-win situation.”
Jones said after England’s 21-13 defeat by Wales: “We’ve had this plan for a while. It’s an opportune time to do some set-piece work.”
It was Haig who suggested another training session to Jones over the festive break – the pair have known each other since Jones’s time as Japan coach – following the similar camp during the 2018 Six Nations.
This week there is an interesting subplot with Graham Rowntree, the former Test prop who was England forwards coach from 2008-2015, now in charge of the Georgian pack. Rowntree was not involved last year but heard about the combative scrums.
“Back home it’s talked about – rumours quickly got out about how tough a session it was and how they were taken aback by how good Georgia were,” he says. “Looking at YouTube – someone filmed it through a fence – Georgia got stuck into England.”
You can watch that video of the session by clicking here.
Haig concurs regarding the competitiveness of the sessions, saying: “After day one, Eddie said the players were gobsmacked at how strong Georgia were and that it’s all they could talk about that night!”
England will obviously be more aware of the Georgians’ skill-set at scrum time when they pack down again this week while Rowntree will be able to give his Georgian charges a detailed insight into the opposition players having also coached many of them.
It’s an experience that should have long-term benefits for Georgia, with Haig’s side drawing on last year’s sessions when faced with tough challenges since. “We’ve referred back to that when playing hard teams, how we’ve trained against England,” says the Kiwi coach.
“At the time they were ranked No 2 in the world and it was an excellent exercise for us to be involved in. It’s good to remember those type of things and the players can all take huge confidence from that, training against England.”
While England are preparing for the last two rounds of their Six Nations campaign – matches against Italy and Scotland at Twickenham – Georgia are in the middle of the Rugby Europe Championship.
They sit top of the table having beaten Romania 18-9 and Spain 24-10, the latter match played in extremely windy conditions in Tbilisi, and face Belgium next Saturday, 2 March, before Tests against Germany and Russia on the following weekends.
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