Preview: Georgia v Romania

Date published: September 28 2011

This may not be the fixture most RWC fans have circled on their calender, but for Georgia and Romania this is their match of the tourney.

Whilst this may not be the fixture most Rugby World Cup enthusiasts have circled on their tournament calender, for Georgia and Romania this is their highlight match of the tournament.

Palmerston North hosts the first-ever World Cup clash between these old foes from Eastern Europe, in a game which both teams will be determined to win in order to turn their championship failures into success.

A tough, physical encounter is expected at Arena Manawatu – home of the Bucketheads (local supporters that don plastic buckets as headware at provincial games).

Scrutiny of recent encounters between the two sides show that Georgia start as slight favourites as they have won four out of the five games the two countries have played since the last World Cup in 2007.

They have supplanted the Romanians as the top team in the second division of European rugby and are now ranked two positions ahead of their rivals.

On top of that, Georgia have been the more impressive side in New Zealand, dropping a close one 15-6 to Scotland before giving England a hard time of it until they ran out of steam in the second half of their match in Dunedin.

For the Georgians, this is their second-last match of the tournament before they end off with a final pool game against Argentina on Sunday in a fixture they aren't expected to win, which puts extra emphasis on them beating the Oaks.

For Romania, it will be the last chance they have following defeats at the hands of Scotland, Argentina and England, and coach Romeo Gontineac knows what to expect from their near neighbours.

“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,” he said.

Georgia have won only one previous Rugby World Cup match (against Namibia in 2007), but enter this match with eight wins under their belt in their last ten Tests – a sequence interrupted by losses to England and Scotland in their early pool matches.

Romania have won only five matches across seven World Cups, but they've never lost five matches in succession or finished last in their pool only once before – at the 1995 RWC in South Africa.

Much has been made of the quick turnarounds that all teams have to face at some point during these group stages and if they are having any effect, Romania will need to be on their guard ahead of this fixture.

While Georgia have a full ten days of rest after their encounter with England, their opponents have had just four days to recover from their own match with Martin Johnson's side.

In the team line-ups, Romania have made 10 changes to the side that lost to England and will send out the same starting line-up that took on Scotland. Georgia, meanwhile, have made three changes to the team which went down 41-10 to England with David Zirakashvili, Giorgi Chkhaidze and Lasha Khmaladze promoted to the starting XV.

Ones to watch:

For Georgia: Solid and dependable, flank Mamuka Gorgodze will be called upon to produce another man-of-the-match performance like he did against England. A hard worker in the loose, Gorgodze is no slouch when it comes to making tackles either.

For Romania: Romania captain Marius Tincu will play his 50th Test match on Wednesday while vice-captain Cristian Petre will play his 10th Test against Georgia, equaling the record held by Romania coach Romeo Gontineac. Tincu's strong leadership and Petre's priceless experience playing against the Georgians will no doubt be key for the Oaks.

Head to Head: Both sides are renowned for their power in the scrums, and this set-piece will once again be the highlight of the match. The team that wins the battle up front, will go a long way in achieving victory.

Recent results:
2011: Georgia won 18-11 in Tblisi
2010: Romania won 22-10 in Bucharest
2009: Georgia won 28-23 in Tblisi

Prediction: Phew, tough call this one. It's an encounter that both teams believe they can win and is stoked by a fierce, long-standing rivalry. Georgia to win by six points!

The teams:

Georgia: 15 Lasha Khmaladze, 14 Revaz Gigauri, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Tedo Zibzibadze, 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Merab Kvirikashvili, 9 Irakli Abuseridze (c), 8 Dimitri Basilaia, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 5 Vakhtang Maisuradze, 4 Ilia Zedginidze, 3 David Zirakashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 David Khinchagishvili.
Replacements: 16 Goderdzi Shvelidze, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Levan Datunashvili, 19 Givi Berishvili, 20 Bidzina Samkharadze, 21 Irakli Chkhikvadze, 22 Malkhaz Urjukashvili.

Romania: 15 Iulian Dumitras, 14 Stefan Ciuntu, 13 Csaba Gal, 12 Tiberius Dimofte, 11 Madalin Lemnaru, 10 Danut Dumbrava, 9 Florin Surugiu, 8 Daniel Carpo, 7 Ovidiu Tonita, 6 Mihai Macovei, 5 Cristian Petre, 4 Valentin Ursache, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Marius Tincu (c), 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Replacements: 16 Bogdan Suman, 17 Silviu Florea, 18 Valentin Poparlan, 19 Daniel Ianus, 20 Valentin Calafeteanu, 21 Constantin Gheara, 22 Florin Vlaicu.

Date: Wednesday, 28 September
Kick-off: 19:30 (06:30 GMT)
Venue: Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North
Weather forecast: Cloudy with a high of 14°C, dropping to 4°C.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)