Georgia seek rugby credibility at Wales’ expense in Cardiff
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Italy joined the Five Nations. Argentina joined the Tri-Nations.
Georgia wants to join something big, too.
The Six Nations says it’s closed.
SANZAAR, which runs the Rugby Championship the Pumas moved into, have been willing to listen to the Georgians. As have the South Africans in regard to the Currie Cup, and the French about a ProD2 opening.
The Georgians want to improve themselves, coach Milton Haig says.
They have won six of the last seven European Nations Cups, a step below the Six Nations, and effectively have nowhere to go in terms of natural progression.
“We have outgrown our European Nations stuff for the last two years,” Haig says.
“I am not being disrespectful to Russia and Romania, who beat us earlier this year, but if I was looking to us and how we progress, we are in a no man’s land.
“Every time we go back to the European Nations, it is not the standard we are looking for, and it does not push us as it should do.
“When we get to the November (test) window and we have the chance to play a tier one country, the gulf with the European Nations is astronomical. We get one (tier one opponent) a year, but Fiji and Samoa have more than double that. Where is our progression?
“I would like two matches against tier one nations each year. How do you gauge how you are improving? We are a different side from even the 2015 World Cup, how we train and prepare.”
The problem for Georgia is that even after making the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 2015, and beating the likes of Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Canada twice since then, the Lelos still have not beaten a tier one team. Ever.
Which makes their maiden test with Wales on Saturday in Cardiff a potentially defining moment in their history.
A win would give their cause some credibility.
Italy and Argentina had it when they were beating tier one teams regularly before they were invited into the Five Nations and Tri-Nations.
Wales has given Georgia a chance by selecting a virtual B side, to rest the first-choice players for when the All Blacks visit next week.
“Tier two nations have performed reasonably well here (in Cardiff),” Haig says, “and I have said to our guys, ‘Why not us?’
“We respect the opposition - Wales have a huge rugby history - but the Kiwi in me says they have two arms and two legs like us and if you put people under pressure, things happen.”