Preview: Scotland v Georgia

Date published: November 25 2016

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Scotland will want to build on last week’s win over Argentina when they host a dangerous Georgian side at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The home side has had a mixed bag of results in their November Series Tests. They were incredibly unlucky to lose to Australia 23-22 before getting a great result against los Pumas where they won 19-16.

Georgia, too have had their ups and downs. The Lelos lost to Japan 28-22 at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, they then hosted Samoa and were able to pull off a 20-16 win.

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter said the November series has been about learning and that Georgia are a side that are growing steadily.

“We’ve learned a lot from our previous Tests against Australia and Argentina and that’s what these games are about – learning what worked and what didn’t and making sure we improve with every game,” he said.

“Knowledge gained from our one-point loss to Australia and 83rd minute victory over Argentina will be important in negotiating Saturday’s game in the best way possible to get the win we want.

“Georgia are striving to be among the world’s best as they knock on the door of the top ten in the world rankings.

“We are expecting a typical Georgian game. They will be physical up front as they play a forwards-based game, however they are also developing their backs.”

Georgia head coach Milton Haig believes his side are ready to step up against Scotland.

“We are in a good place,” he said.

“We know we should have won the Japan game, we had plenty of chances, we won every statistic apart from the scoreboard. Winning last week was important because it reiterated that we are a good side and can come into this week with confidence.

“This is the kind of game we have talked about. Now it is up to us to make sure we put in a performance that makes a statement. Whether we win or not is a different story but putting in a big performance is critical.”

There are five new faces in the Scottish starting line-up with centre Mark Bennett the only change to the back line, replacing Huw Jones who is struggling with a foot injury. The remaining changes occur in the pack, with Ross Ford returning to the starting front-row. Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson come in to start in the back-row with the reinstated Hamish Watson.

Georgia have made a few changes to their side. In the backline Giorgi Aptsiauri gets promoted from the bench and comes onto the right wing. Tamaz Mtchedlidze swaps the 14 jersey for the 12 with Merab Sharikadze moving to outside centre.

Players to watch: Mark Bennett returns to the Scottish fray after Jones’ injury, and Bennett will have to use this opportunity to try and stake a claim to the 13 jersey. The agile Glasgow man could create problems for the Georgians’ out wide. Last weekend’s try-scorer Sean Maitland could also test the opposition defence. The former Crusader scored a great try last weekend while impressing on support play and on defence.

The Lelos are in no shortage of quality loose-forwards and number eight Beka Bitsadze typifies Georgian grunt. The 25-year old was incredible against Samoa last weekend after nabbing a try a for his side. What was even more spectacular was his industrious defensive effort after making a whopping 13 tackles. Scotland would be wise to keep an eye on Bitsadze.

Head-to-head: The tearaway scrap could be a point of contention as the side who wins the breakdown could dominate the proceedings. Georgian juggernaut Mamuka Gorgodze is as consistent as he is spectacular. He made 15 tackles last weekend while staying elusive in the loose play. He will front up against Hamish Watson who had a great day at the office last weekend. His defence was solid, while beating three players on the attack and proving to be a nuisance at the breakdown.

Previous results:

2011: Scotland won 15-6 in Dunedin, New Zealand (RWC)

Prediction: It will be a battle in the trenches for these two burgeoning side’s but Scotland should be able to take it. Scotland by 10.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw(c), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Del
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Moray Low, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Barclay, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Rory Hughes

Georgia: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 13 Merab Sharikadze, 12 Tamaz Mtchedlidze, 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Malaghuradze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze(c), 6 Vito Kolelishvili, 5 Giorgi Nemsadze, 4 Kote Mikautadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Badri Alkhazashvili, 17 Kakha Asieshvili, 18 Dudu Kubriashvili, 19 Lasha Lomidze, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Beka Tsiklauri, 23 Shalva Sutiashvili

Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Rugby Park
Kick-off: 14:30 Local
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Dan Jones (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

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