Georgia’s Goderdzi Shvelidze will play in his third World Cup

Paul Morgan finds Kingsley Jones tipping an East European rival for success…

If you’re looking for a major upset at this World Cup then look no further than the Georgians – so says Russia’s new head coach, Kingsley Jones.

“I’m not a gambler but if I was and looking for a good-value bet it would be on Georgia making the quarter-finals,” says Jones, who was director of rugby at Sale Sharks last season.

“They have the set-piece game to trouble any team at this World Cup and if they play Scotland, England or Argentina on a wet day they will cause them massive problems.”

Georgia will arrive at the tournament with one of the best tighthead props in Europe. Davit Kubriashvili is keeping Carl Hayman out of the Toulon side and has seven world-class men around him. The Lelos have won the last three European Nations Cups (second division of the Six Nations) and in 2007 lost only 14-10 to Ireland and beat Namibia 30-0.

Jones feels the nation now in the charge of ex-Scotland coach Richie Dixon have improved hugely in the four years since, so if any of the bigger nations feel they can field weakened teams against the Georgians they could come unstuck. England hooker Steve Thompson is another fan, rating loosehead Davit Khinchagishvili, who he played with at Brive, as one of the best in the business.

“They could surprise a few teams at the World Cup; hopefully not England,” Thompson says. “They’ve just got better and better. Now they’re not just massive men and strong but are organised as well. That makes it even worse.”

Jones’s preparations with Russia received a blow with news that England’s scrum coach from the RWC 2003 win, Phil Keith-Roach, is out of the tournament. Keith-Roach has recently ruptured his patella for the second time and will be replaced in New Zealand by former Wales and Lions prop Darren Morris. “Phil will still be involved, helping Darren, but from a distance as he can’t fly,” explains Jones.

This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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