World Cup Preview: Georgia and Romania

Group B Opposition: Argentina, England, Scotland

Pedigree: The World Cups started too late for Romania, who were a force in the amateur game, regularly winning against the Six Nations sides. They have been left behind since the late 1980s and the dawn of professionalism / being allowed to leave the country after Ceacescu was strung up with piano wire. Georgia were a success in 2007, thrashing Namibia and holding Argentina to 6-3 at half time, while the memory of Ireland beating them by no more than a held-up TMO decision will remain seared into the collective conciousness of Irish rugby forever.

Players to watch: Your appreciation for these two sides essentially boils down to one question: do you like scrummaging?  The Top 14 is awash with Georgian props, and at least two of them, Clermont’s Zirakashvili and Toulon’s Kubriashvili, are world class. The good news for Georgia is that they have more than just a scrum, and in brutish Montpellier flanker Mamuka Gorgodze, they have a backrow beast who will wreak havoc wherever possible. Romania’s star asset is the tough and – let’s face it – dirty Perpignan hooker Marius Tincu. Watch your eyes, chaps.
Good tournament: Romania will be looking to escape with their dignity intact. Georgia, however, will be looking for a win over Romania, and to make life awkward for the big boys.

Bad tournament: Letting the scoreboards run up too easily will upset either of these feisty nations.

Prospects: Rugby’s popularity in Georgia is thought to be a result of its proximity to an ancient traditional game called ‘Lelo Burti’ (pictured right; it translates as ‘field ball’) where a non-specific number of large men from neighbouring villages compete to carry a heavy ball over the opposing village’s river creek. And, back in the day, they used decrepit old Soviet tractors as scrum machines. Notice is thus served of how Georgia intend to play in New Zealand. They’ll be hoping for rain lashed boggy pitches, and as many scrums as possible.

The fixture list has given them a good chance of causing an upset.  They have Scotland up first, and indications are that they are targeting them for a serious shock. The Scots are entering the World Cup somewhat undercooked, and would want to be mindful, or their river creek could be in jeopardy.

It should be noted that Georgia are the 7th best team in Europe, and Scotland are 5th at best – plus 9 of the squad (all forwards, surprisingly) play regular Top 14 rugby – they aren’t no-hopers by any stretch of the imagination. And they are coached by former Scotland coach Richie Dixon, who was enticed to Tbilisi after the notoriously penny-pinching SRU handed him his cards in 2009 – it’s just too good a story not to happen, isn’t it?

For Romania, things look less promising. A few years back, they knocked off Italy, and again ran them close in France 2007, but they have regressed. Their route to the World Cup was something of a struggle, including a loss at home to Portugal, before ultimately overcoming Uruguay to qualify.  If they can keep the scores down, and get a few players noticed by some upwardly mobile French clubs it will be an achievement.

Verdict: Georgia will beat Romania, and while they won’t beat Scotland, they’ll give them a right good scare. Romania will go home empty handed.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Good blog and a compelling argument on the merits of Georgia I must say! They seem to me to have hit a bit of a glass ceiling in the nations cup though and it isn't fair that they largely rely on French clubs to develop their players. Do you see any way European structures could be altered to help these teams' development? Is a promotion-relegation playoff between bottom 6 nations team and top nations cup team (although I think they play that competition over two years now) an impossibility? Similar questions could be asked for Samoa/Fiji or even Eddie and the N. Americans, especially since Churchill cup is finito.

  2. The problem with "promotion" is that you are asking turkeys to vote for Christmas – it won't happen. The best the likes of Georgia can hope for is regular Test engagements with bigger nations, but given the Samoa and Fiji are struggling with that, I wouldn't be holding my breath…

%d bloggers like this: