Wales have already qualified for the quarter-finals, but a point here against Georgia will ensure top spot in Pool C and set up a last-eight match against the second-placed team from Pool D in Marseille next Saturday, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s other pool match between Fiji and Portugal.
But it’s a win Wales want, if only to erase the memory of a first-ever test defeat to Georgia just 11 months ago, when they gave up a 12-3 half-time lead to lose 13-12, courtesy of a late penalty from Luka Matkava.
Head coach Warren Gatland unveiled his matchday 23 on Monday. It included six changes to the starting XV from the comprehensive win over Australia – with Gareth Anscombe starting at fly-half for the injured Dan Biggar, and co-captain Dewi Lake returning in the middle of the front row.
Opposite number Levan Maisashvili has made five personnel changes to his starting XV after their 17-12 loss against Fiji, with three in the pack, and two in the backs.
Guram Gogichashvili and Shalva Mamukashvili both return to the front row to pack down alongside Beka Gigashvili, while captain and centre Merab Sharikadze returns to the run-on team to win his 99th test cap, and full-back Lasha Khmaladze makes his first appearance at RWC 2023 after playing three matches in the 2011 tournament and four in 2019.
FIXTURE: Wales v Georgia
GROUND: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes (58,883)
KICK-OFF: 15:00 local time (GMT+2)
Wales have won three of the four matches between the two sides leading up to Saturday’s Nantes encounter. But the two matches prior to November’s big result were close. Wales won 13-6 in 2017 and 18-0 in November 2020, a match that saw a certain Louis Rees-Zammit announce himself with a try on his first international start.
That last one, in Cardiff last November. Jac Morgan scored twice in the first 23 minutes – and was denied what would have been a match-winning hat-trick late on. But Georgia recovered from that early onslaught to pull the game back to a single score, before Matkava finally put them in front with two minutes left on the clock.
The Georgian players will certainly remember it well. Fifteen of the matchday 23 in Nantes were in the squad in Cardiff, including 11 in the starting XV.
KEY TALKING POINT
Georgia made Fiji work very hard for their win in Bordeaux last weekend, came from behind to secure a draw against an inspired Portugal, and gave Australia a scare. No one should think this match is a foregone conclusion – especially after that result the last time the two sides met.
Gareth Anscombe v Luka Matkava. Anscombe scored 23 of Wales’ 40 points against Australia after coming on to replace the injured Dan Biggar nearly two weeks ago. He goes head to head here against the player who slotted the match-winning penalty in Cardiff, after coming on with just seven minutes left on the clock.
Georgia’s number eight Tornike Jalagonia has not missed a tackle at RWC 2023, completing all 48 attempts. Only Italy’s Lorenzo Cannone (33) and Japan’s Kazuki Himeno (31) have also made 30 or more tackles without missing one.
Mathieu Raynal (France). Of the 20 tries scored in the three Rugby World Cup 2023 matches that the French referee has officiated to date, 12 came in South Africa’s 76-0 victory over Romania in Bordeaux. Seven of the remaining eight were scored in Uruguay’s 36-26 win over Namibia.
WALES Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake (captain), Tomas Francis; Will Rowlands, Dafydd Jenkins; Aaron Wainwright, Tommy Reffell, Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Henry Thomas, Christ Tshiunza, Taine Basham, Gareth Davies, Sam Costelow, Mason Grady
GEORGIA Lasha Khmaladze; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Davit Niniashvili; Luka Matkava, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Guram Gogichashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili; Nodar Cheishvili, Konstantine Mikautadze; Mikheil Gachechiladze, Beka Saginadze, Tornike Jalagonia
Replacements: Vano Karkadze, Nika Abuladze, Irakli Aptsiauri, Vladimer Chachanidze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Gela Aprasidze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Demur Tapladze