As both teams approach their second match in this rugby world cup, all the attention is on England and their team selection ahead of this tie in Dunedin on September 18th. The big news in this respect is the axing of Jonny Wilkinson who had what is being claimed as his worst performance in an England shirt last weekend.
In England’s opening match against Argentina, Wilkinson missed no fewer than five kickable penalties – a statistic that nearly cost his side the match before a late Ben Youngs try helped to secure a narrow victory.
The removal of Wilkinson and the introduction of Toby Flood is significant for a number of reasons and England coach Martin Johnson will be aware that Georgia’s lack of discipline is a serious issue for Richie Dixon’s side.
During their first match against Scotland, the Georgians gave away no fewer than 14 penalties and if Scotland’s Dan Parks had been on top of his game, the winning margin of 15 points to 6 would have been extended much further.
As it was, this Georgian side will have been disappointed in losing a game that they had an outside chance of winning while at the same time, they can take some confidence with them into the England match.
If you’re a Georgian fan, it’s not a terribly good idea to look at previous encounters and when these two sides met back in the 2003 tournament, England romped home by 84 points to 6.
However damaging this defeat would have been at the time, it must be put into perspective as Georgia were a much weaker side eight years ago. Since then, they have improved tremendously to cement their position as the seventh best side in European Rugby and as regular winners of the European Nations Cup, their credentials are far greater now.
Similarly, that England team went on to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy back in 2003 and while they remain the superior side, this is nowhere near being as strong an outfit. Although England are clear favourites to win in Dunedin, nobody is expecting a repeat of the 84 -6 score line.
Aside from the change at Fly Half, England will be welcoming Lewis Moody back into their ranks for this match and that will add steel in the scrum and better organisation through the squad as a whole.
Before the tournament, Georgian fans would have looked at this fixture with some trepidation but after England so nearly lost against Argentina, maybe there is just the faintest glimmer of hope for Dixon and his men.
It’s a very outside chance to say the least but Georgia will need to show better discipline so that Toby Flood doesn’t get the chance to underline why he should be in the side and somehow they must get into opposing territory in order to give Merab Kvirikashvili the opportunity to show that he is the best kicker on the park.