RWC 2019 Pool D: Wales vs Georgia
Venue: City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City
Date: Monday, September 23, 2019
Wales will get their World Cup 2019 campaign in this clash with Georgia. The match will be a welcome distraction for the Welsh camp after their run-up to the tournament was disrupted by the allegations leveled against attack coach Rob Howley. Howley was dismissed from the camp for a suspected breach of World Rugby’s betting laws, so it will be interesting to see if their game planning and patterns were able to survive what has been a far from ideal build-up.
The last time the two sides faced it was an under-strength Welsh team that only just edged past the Georgians in Cardiff. Wales will be fielding a much stronger lineup in this game, but coach Warren Gatland will be more than aware of the threat that the Georgians possess. This will be especially true in the set-piece, with the Georgian scrum being a noted strength.
The talismanic Alun Wyn Jones will again lead out the Welsh as he wins his 129th Test cap for the country against Georgia. The appearance, which will equal the Wales cap record of Gethin Jenkins, is one that Wales will be looking to win in convincing fashion to take control of Pool d.
Warren Gatland has chosen what is on paper his strongest side for this opener, knowing that Georgia can be a handful if they are allowed to turn this into a grind of a match. That means starts for Aaron Wainwright on the flank, Wyn Jones at prop, and Josh Navidi at No. 8. Look for the inspirational play around the part of flanker Justin Tipuric to be important at the breakdown.
The Georgians will look to win this with a defense-first approach. They have managed to hold their opponents to 10 points or less in 53% of their last 19 games. These games have often, admittedly, come against European teams of relatively low quality, but defense is something that can be built upon regardless of opponent, so expect Georgia to build a wall and force Wales to breakthrough.
When the Georgians do have the ball there attacking options are limited. Their best-attacking player is fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze, a player who has been able to show glimpses of class as he works his side around the park. The Georgians are at their best in attack inside the opposition’s 22, so a kick based attack wouldn’t be a shock.
Georgia have improved massively over the last decade, but they have yet to prove they can run with a side of the quality of Wales when both sides have their first choice XVs on the park. Expect the game to be tight for the first half or so, with Wales eventually pulling away to win by a bigger margin than most of the game would have suggested.