The ninth and 11th-ranked sides in the world, Australia and Georgia, kick off Pool C in this year’s Rugby World Cup, as the action returns to Stade de France less than 24 hours after the tournament opener between France and New Zealand.
FIXTURE: Australia v Georgia
GROUND: Stade de France (80,023)
KICK-OFF: 18:00 local time (GMT+2)
The two sides have met just once before – in the final round of Pool D matches at Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, in front of nearly 40,000 fans at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Fukuroi.
The scoreline of that match will tell you Australia beat Georgia 27-8 in Japan in 2019. It will say that they secured the try-scoring bonus. It won’t, necessarily, tell you the defensive effort Georgia put in, or how hard they made the Wallabies work for their win.
Put it this way: in the first 34 minutes, the Lelos made 124 tackles as they kept Australia to a 10-3 lead at the break. Their remarkable efforts continued in the second half – it was 17-8 with 10 minutes left on the clock – before two late tries gave then-coach Michael Cheika, who’s in charge of Argentina this tournament, something positive to talk about at the post-match press conference.
KEY TALKING POINT
Australia come into this World Cup on a five-match losing streak – they have not won since Eddie Jones returned to the head coach hot seat in January. Jones is making confident noises in front of the press, but Georgia, two places below them in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini and harbouring long-standing Six Nations ambitions, may well be sniffing an upset.
Ben Donaldson v Davit Niniashvili. Once upon a time, ignoring Georgia’s forwards would have been rugby sacrilege. Now, however, their backs write the headlines, and few more so than Lyon flyer Niniashvili. In fact, both sets of back threes are very much worth keeping an eye on, though it is set to be hot in Saint-Denis on Saturday, so expect fatigue to play a part.
The last – and only – time these two sides met was Georgian rugby legend Mamuka Gorgodze’s 75th and final match for the Lelos, at his fourth Rugby World Cup. The back-row spent 75 gruelling minutes exactly where you’d expect – at the vanguard of an astonishing defensive effort.
Luke Pearce (RFU). This is Pearce’s first outing at his third Rugby World Cup. In his first, in 2015, he and his father Andrew were the fourth and fifth officials for a pool match between Italy and Romania.
AUSTRALIA Ben Donaldson; Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Carter Gordon, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, David Porecki, Taniela Tupou; Richard Arnold, Will Skelton (captain); Tom Hooper, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini
Replacements: Matt Faessler, Blake Schoupp, Zane Nonggorr, Robert Leota, Langi Gleeson, Nic White, Lalakai Foketi, Suli Vunivalu
GEORGIA Davit Niniashvili; Akaki Tabutsadze, Demur Tapladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Miriani Modebadze; Luka Matkava, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Nika Abuladze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Guram Papidze; Nodar Cheishvili, Konstantine Mikautadze; Tornike Jalagonia, Luka Ivanishvili, Beka Gorgadze
Replacements: Tengizi Zamtaradze, Guram Gogichashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Lasha Jaiani, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Gela Aprasidze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Giorgi Kveseladze