“We have a lot of things to analyse,” Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili said after their 35-15 defeat to Australia on the first weekend of Rugby World Cup 2023.
He wasn’t wrong. Georgia played noticeably better than the scoreline suggests, but wasted a number of chances at Stade de France two weeks ago.
Maisashvili has made four changes in the pack, with Mikheil Nariashvili and Beka Gigashvili coming into the front-row, Vladimer Chachanidze into the second-row, and Beka Saginadze into the back-row. Giorgi Kveseladze will earn his 50th cap, as will Nodar Cheishvili, if used off the bench.
Saturday’s opponents Portugal made Wales work for their bonus-point win in Nice at the weekend. While they have every reason to be proud of their efforts then, they’ll want to build on that with an even stronger performance here.
Diogo Hasse Ferreira replaces Anthony Alves in the front-row while José Madeira comes into the second-row in place of Martim Belo. In the back-line, Pedro Bettencourt replaces José Lima at outside-centre and Raffaele Storti replaces Vincent Pinto on the right wing.
FIXTURE: Georgia v Portugal
GROUND: Stadium de Toulouse (33,103)
KICK-OFF: 14:00 local time (GMT+2)
Old rivalry, new setting. This may be the first Rugby World Cup meeting between the two sides, but thanks to what is now known as the Rugby Europe Championship, Georgia and Portugal have played one another 24 times since 1997.
Portugal won four of the first seven encounters, but have not tasted victory since 2005 – 17 matches ago. Three of those games in that winless run have been draws, most recently at the start of last year’s Rugby Europe Championship, when they held the Eastern Europeans to a 25-25 draw – while Georgia needed a last-minute Davit Niniashvili try to make sure of a 23-14 victory in Kutaisi five months later.
Six tries, the lead repeatedly swapping hands, and a tense finish as both sides looked for the win. What’s not to like about the 25-25 draw in the Rugby Europe Championship match between the two sides at Tbilisi’s Avchala Stadium in February 2022?
KEY TALKING POINT
Georgia are 13th in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini – and beat Wales and Italy in 2022. Portugal are 16th, and pushed Wales all the way in their RWC 2023 opener. This match may be about bragging rights in a pool that also features Wales, Fiji and Australia, but these two sides – like Uruguay in Pool A and Chile in Pool D, are ones to watch. It’s worth getting to know them relatively early.
Beka Saginadze v Nicolas Martins. Saginadze makes his World Cup bow in Toulouse, after sitting out Georgia’s opening 35-15 loss to Australia on 9 September. Opposite him, Portugal’s Martins, who became the fifth Portuguese player - and fourth forward - to score a World Cup try when he crossed against Wales last Saturday. Opposing fullbacks Davit Niniashvili and Nuno Sousa Guedes are also worth watching out for.
In 2015, Georgia scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze became the youngest player to feature in a Rugby World Cup match when he took to the field against Tonga, aged 18 years and 340 days, beating the previous record held by USA’s Thretton Palamo, who was 19 years and eight days old when he featured against South Africa in 2007.
Paul Williams (New Zealand). The Hāwera-born Williams is one of two central referees from New Zealand at Rugby World Cup 2023. The other is Ben O’Keeffe, who took charge of last week’s match between France and Uruguay. Assistant referee James Doleman and TMO Brendon Pickerill make up the officials’ contingent from the Land of the Long White Cloud.
GEORGIA Davit Niniashvili; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Alexander Todua; Tedo Abzhandadze, Gela Aprasidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili; Vladimer Chachanidze, Konstantine Mikautadze; Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Saginadze, Beka Gorgadze
Replacements: Tengizi Zamtaradze, Guram Gogichashvili, Guram Papidze, Nodar Cheishvili, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Luka Matkava, Demur Tapladze
PORTUGAL Nuno Sousa Guedes; Raffaele Storti, Pedro Bettencourt, Tomás Appleton (captain), Rodrigo Marta; Jerónimo Portela, Samuel Marques; Francisco Fernandes, Mike Tadjer, Diogo Hasse Ferreira; José Madeira, Steevy Cerqueira; João Granate, Nicolas Martins, Rafael Simões
Replacements: David Costa, Lionel Campergue, Anthony Alves, Martim Belo, David Wallis, Thibault de Freitas, Pedro Lucas, Manuel Cardoso Pinto