Japan 2019 on Georgian minds as they prepare for Namibia clash


By Ian Malin www.rugbyworldcup.com


EXETER, 6 Oct - High winds are expected at Exeter's Sandy Park on Wednesday night, but Georgia are confident that nothing can blow them off course as they attempt to qualify automatically for the 2019 Rugby World Cup finals.


However, Phil Davies's rapidly improving Namibian side will have something to say about that and are hopeful they can overcome the odds in this Pool C encounter.


The power of the Georgian pack, though, should tilt things in their favour as they look to grab third place in the pool and an automatic berth at Japan 2019, which would be theirs for the first time if they win and Tonga are defeated by the All Blacks in Newcastle on Friday night.




The game may be at the smallest venue in this Rugby World Cup but this is the Georgia team's (pictured above) world cup final. With two-thirds of their squad based in France, most of them forwards, they are expected to take a direct, no-nonsense approach at Sandy Park.


Georgia are now the best side in Europe outside the Six Nations and they know that qualification for Japan in 2019 will help ease financial pressures and ensure more fixtures against the best sides in the world.


"We have been working to this for the last four years," said Georgia's head coach Milton Haig."Everything has been geared to winning two games. Tomorrow at eight o'clock will be a special time for Georgian rugby. We want to create a legacy for future players. This will be the biggest game ever for Georgia.


TOP 12


"Qualification for the next World Cup would give us extra funding and help us work on player development. It will help us with our forward plannng and if you prove that you are in the world's top 12 and have quality, people have to take notice of you. We need matches with the top opposition to help us improve."


New Zealander Haig is relying on the side that defeated Tonga 17-10 at Kingsholm in their first fixture, with the exception of wing Alexander Todua who steps up to face a Namibian side still searching for a first win in Rugby World Cup finals.


Georgia have made rapid strides since that famous day in Bordeaux in 2007 when they came within inches of creating the biggest shock up until then in finals. Georgia lost 14-10 to Ireland but only a TMO ruling denied them victory when Denis Leamy got his hand under the ball which had gone over the Irish tryline.




"Everyone is keyed up and it is important that we keep our emotions in check," added Haig. "Namibia are a different side under Phil Davies. They have more structure and attacking flair and can attack from anywhere on the pitch. They have two good ball-carrriers in their number eight and hooker. They can scrum when they need to. Obviously we will target that area but we will have to be on our mettle." 


Namibia have been working hard on a scrum that too often was pushed backwards by Tonga last week, with former Leicester and England prop Robin Cowling lending a hand. A change of props, with Johnny Redelinghuys and Raoul Larson coming into the Namibia line-up, will help counter the power of the Georgians.


"We will have to play a bit smarter but we are learning a lot of lessons," said Jacques Burger, Namibia's captain who scored two tries against the Tongans.


"It will be tough but we believe we can win."



Georgian time


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