- Georgia hungry to face all blacks at RWC 2015


By Jon Newcombe

Georgia head coach Milton Haig insists the job of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2015 is only half done despite seeing his side book their place in England with a 36-10 win over Russia in the latest round of European Nations Cup Division 1A fixtures.

While the Lelos are now guaranteed of being involved in a fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup alongside ENC rivals Romania, the final match of the regional qualifying process between the two sides in Tbilisi on 15 March will determine who goes through to RWC 2015 as Europe 1 and Europe 2.

Should Georgia beat Romania they will be the top ranked European qualifier and join defending champions New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and the Africa 1 qualifier in Pool C. 

New Zealander Haig, who took charge of Georgia just over two years ago, admits such an outcome would be hugely significant for his adopted country.

“It’s awesome to have qualified, especially with two rounds of matches to go,” Haig said. “We’ve achieved one of our goals and now we want to achieve the other, which is to be in the same pool as New Zealand at the World Cup.

“To play against the All Blacks would be the ultimate rugby experience for our players, but first of all we have to play Spain and then it’s the big game at home to Romania. Although we’re on our way to England, the job is not finished yet, we need to finish top of the table.”

Strong second half 

After eight matches over the course of this season and last only points difference separates Georgia (+160) from Romania (+130), who beat Spain 32-6 on Saturday to secure qualification, at the top of the ENC standings.

Roared on by a capacity 55,000 crowd, Georgia nearly got off to a flying start against local rivals Russia but pacey full back Merab Kvirikashvili was unable to cleanly gather his own chip kick ahead with the line at his mercy.

Worse was to follow for the Tbilisi-born player when he had a kick charged down inside his own 22 and the ball fell kindly into the arms of Russia wing Andrey Otrokov, who strolled over the line to score on 11 minutes. Dmitry Gerasimov converted to put the Bears 7-0 up.

Fifteen minutes later Georgia took the lead when tighthead prop Davit Zirakashvili muscled his way over from a rolling maul. Kvirikashvili added the extras to make the half-time score 10-7 to the hosts.

Georgia wasted no time in putting daylight between themselves and Russia at the start of the second half, Viktor Kolelishvili collecting an offload from fellow flanker Mamuka Gorgodze to score try number two. Gorgodze followed suit shortly afterwards, and with Kvirikashvili kicking both conversions Georgia were out of sight at 24-7.

Russia fly half Yury Kushnarev temporarily halted Georgia’s momentum with a 55th-minute penalty but that proved to be the Bears’ final scoring act at the Dinamo Arena. 

A thrust down the middle by centre Merab Sharikadze set up a good attacking platform for replacement Teodore Zibzibadze to cross in the right hand corner for the bonus point try, before French referee Alexandre Ruiz rewarded the dominant Georgian pack with a penalty try in stoppage time.



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