With COVID putting a halt to the Six Nations and leaving many wondering what the international rugby scene was going to look like over the following few months, many were surprised to see an autumn, knockout-style competition coming our way; courtesy of Amazon Prime (if you don’t mind a dodgy picture and poor quality stream). We were told it would feature all the teams from the Six Nations with Fiji and Georgia coming along for the ride.
For many, this was a welcome surprise with many of us crying out for years for Georgia to be included in some form of international, top-level competition (that isn’t the World Cup) as a way to gain more exposure and showcase the talent they have as an emerging rugby nation.
Now, I must emphasise that Georgia is a nation that has come on leaps and bounds over the last 20 years with each World Cup a reminder that they are still a physical presence. Given a couple of more years, perhaps Georgia could be up there with the likes of Italy, Samoa and maybe even Argentina.
With their first fixture scheduled to be against England, many, myself included, thought this should be a walk in the park for the men in white. However, that didn't dampen the sense of anticipation and intrigue as to what Georgia are capable of. Whilst being known for having a very strong pack, the backs have looked historically out-of-depth on the international stage, leading many to think that Georgia would keep it tight and aim to keep it physical. Now the aim of this article isn’t to recap each game and scrutinise Georgia to the Nth degree, but more to summarise and look at Georgia Rugby as a whole and why the tournament wasn’t what many expected from them and hence maybe explain why we haven’t seen Georgia play in many other major tournaments previously.
So, looking at this pack, which has been praised in the past as being this dominant and abrasive unit of players, they were surprisingly outmuscled and outgunned in 3 of Georgia's 4 games (the 4th we’ll get to later) with the England pack in particular making mincemeat out of out the Georgian set-piece. Over the course of the tournament they seemed to struggle matching up with their opposite man and lacked the fitness to compete consistently in the breakdown. There was, however, a small glimmer of what could have been for the Georgian pack during the Fiji game, with the team able put together some successful, intelligent, interlocking forward play despite ultimately falling short to the Fijian flair.
Moving onto the back line, we’ll have to remind ourselves that Georgia doesn’t have the same resources as say Ireland or Wales. This obviously means that you wouldn’t expect the back line to be as well drilled or have the same amount of finesse. Unfortunately, this was true of their performances throughout the competition. Whilst there were a few moments where they seemed to be on the front foot, nothing ever really came to fruition, with a stray pass here or a dropped ball there leading to countless turnovers and a woeful territory loss.
This left me thinking, what had happened to the Georgia everyone raved about, had they simply peaked and this was as far as Georgia could go, or were they struggling from a lack of game time against tier 1 opposition? Was it the coaching set up, the infrastructure or just simply. the talent wasn’t good enough? All I know is Georgia needs to turn it around fast if they want to be ready for the next World Cup in 2 years time and I for one will be watching them very closely to see what they’ll do.