Minnows set for heavyweight clash
September 25, 2011
Georgia's Dmitri Basilaia notched during last week's defeat by England in Dunedin © Getty Images
Georgia and Romania's meeting in Palmerston North on Wednesday is of little significance in the overall scheme of things at the 2011 Rugby World Cup but for the participants, it will feel like the final.
Both sides have improved immeasurably in recent years and both arrived in New Zealand cautiously optimistic of springing a major upset. Romania very nearly realised that dream on the opening weekend, giving Scotland an almighty scare before eventually being undone by a brace of late tries from Simon Danielli.
Georgia, meanwhile, also put it up to the Scots but came out on the wrong side of 15-6 scoreline. They then went about making life very difficult for England for about 40 minutes of their clash in Dunedin.
So, Romania and Georgia can both take pride in their efforts date. However, the success of their respective campaigns will be determined by how they fare against one another in Palmerston North. This is the game that they will both been targeting before the tournament began and this is the won that both will be determined to win.
Indeed, what it might lack in sexiness, it will make up for in passion, competitiveness and brutal forward aggression. Indeed, the game will be worth watching for the set-piece showdowns alone!
Georgia - Player to Watch: Openside flanker Mamuka Gorgodze was Georgia's standout player in their last outing against England as he topped the charts for tackling, turn-overs as well as metres gained and defenders beaten in attack.
Georgia - Team News: Head coach Richie Dixon makes three changes. In the backs Lasha Khmaladze comes in for Irakli Machkhaneli with Revaz Gigauri moving onto the wing. Up front Clermont Auvergne tight-head prop David Zirakashvili replaces Toulon prop Davit Kubriashvili while flanker Giorgi Chkhaidze comes in for Shalva Sutiashvili.
Romania - Player to Watch: After being subsititued early in the game against Scotland and rested for his side's drubbing by England, Romania skipper Marius Tincu will be fresh and fired up to lead his side to victory over Georgia.
Romania- Team News: Tincu is recalled at hooker for the Romanians and will line up alongside Mihaita Lazar and Paulica Ion, who come in for Nicolae Nere and Silviu Florea. Valentin Ursache takes over from Valentin Poparlan in the second-row, while Sandu Burcea and Cosmin Ratiu make way for Mihai Macovei and Daniel Carpo in the back-row. There are just two survivors in the backs with Marin Dumbrava holding on to the No.10 jersey and Stefan Ciuntu retaining his place on the right wing.
Key Battle: Despite mixed showings so far, the Romanian and Georgian scrums are renowned for their size and power and both sides will fancy their chances in the setpiece. For Georgia Clermont Auvergne's David Zirakashvili returns at tight-head and his battle with Romania's Mihai Lazar is sure to be firey, and could well be decisive.
Stats: Vetern hooker Marius Tincu is Romania's record Rugby Cup try-scorer, with three.
Trivia: Georgia's only previous Rugby Cup victory was a 30-0 win over Romania in France four years ago.
"Both teams know how important this game is back home. They don't want to disappoint the people watching. It comes down to who is smarter on the day and who gets on the front foot."
"We play them all the time, so it is our final. We play every year. We win, we lose, it is our level. England, we never expected to win. Georgia is our level. It is our priority."
Prediction: A fascinating clash is in store in Palmerston North with the wooden spoon and national prides at stake. The confrontation upfront will be ferocious with Georgia just edging their rivals.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.