Georgia issues cheeky challenge to Wales as Sam Warburton calls for official Six Nations play-off

David Skippers
Luka Matkava Georgia v Wales RWC 2023 - Alamy.jpg

Georgia's Luka Maktava is tackled by Will Rowlands of Wales during their 2023 Rugby World Cup match in Nantes.

Georgia have cheekily issued a challenge to Wales to face them in a double-header after Warren Gatland’s side finished with the wooden spoon in this year’s Six Nations.

The Lelos won their seventh successive Rugby Europe title recently and now want to take on Wales in a bid to prove that they can compete with Europe’s leading Test nations in the Six Nations.

Because Georgia have been so dominant in Rugby Europe – which is Europe’s second tier international tournament – each year there is talk of them replacing Italy who regularly finish at the bottom of the Six Nations standings.

However, the Azzurri were much more competitive in Europe’s premier international competition in 2024 and finished in fifth position after finishing their campaign with two victories, as many losses and a draw.

Poor Six Nations campaign

Meanwhile, Wales had to be satisfied with the Championship’s wooden spoon – after losing all of their matches – the first time they prop up the Six Nations table since 2003.

And the Lelos wasted little time in issuing their challenge to Wales after they clinched their latest Rugby Europe Championship by beating Portugal in Paris last Sunday.

“It’s my great pleasure to invite our dear friends from Wales to play Georgia in Tbilisi this autumn,” said Georgian Rugby president Ioseb Tkemaladze.

“After a thrilling Six Nations and Georgia’s seventh success in a row in Rugby Europe, it’s the fixture rugby fans everywhere are crying out for so I really hope the Welsh can take up our invitation.

“Of course we’d be equally happy to play them in Cardiff – where we won a famous victory in 2022. Maybe a double-header can be arranged.

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“There is a strong connection between our two proud rugby nations and we have had some exciting contests recently. We are rugby brothers.

“It would be my honour to host Wales in Tbilisi. I’m confident we would get a record crowd and I would be especially proud to invite Welsh supporters to come and experience our unique Georgian hospitality.”

Meanwhile, Georgia’s request has received support from former Wales and British Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton, who accused his country of becoming “complacent”.

“I was asked the other day whether I still hold the same view about relegation from the Six Nations now that Italy are doing so much better and Wales are not — and I do,” Warburton said in his column for The Times.

“I do not think any home nation has a God-given right to have the cash cow of the Six Nations without any jeopardy. Maybe Wales have become complacent with their business model simply because they know they are going to be in the Six Nations for ever. If they knew there was the threat of relegation, maybe they would be more conscientious in ensuring that all aspects of their operation are spot on.

“If Wales had to play Georgia in a play-off this summer, that would be brilliant. I know it won’t ever happen, and maybe I am looking at this as a fan rather than a businessman, but I stick by my contention that there should be a play-off every year.”

Wales and Georgia have faced each other five times in the international arena with Wales claiming a 43-19 win when the sides last met, in Nantes at last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Memorable victory for Georgia

However, the Lelos sealed a memorable 13-12 triumph over Wales in Cardiff in 2022.

It was their first and only victory over their more illustrious opponents and resulted in Wales’ head coach Wayne Pivac being fired from his position.

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