If England are in regeneration, then their opponents are in something of a revolution. The bulk of their squad were part of the side that competed in Japan last autumn, but new head coach Levan Maisashvili has looked to blood new combinations in both the second row and the back three.
Locks Lasha Jaiani and Grigor Kerdikoshvili hold just two international caps apiece, and the challenge of going up against one of the strongest lineout units in the game – with Maro Itoje this week joined by 65-cap Joe Launchbury and Bath captain Charlie Ewels to boast a collective 133 appearances – will not be one to envy, yet it is nothing compared to the pressure on No 8 Beka Gorgadze who has to fill the void left by colossus former captain Mamuka Gorgoze after his second and final retirement from the international game.
However, the inexperienced wing combination of Sandro Svanidze and Akaki Tabutsadze, the former making his international debut and the latter only his fourth appearance, could well be something to keep an eye on. Svanidze has been promoted from the Under-20s as one to watch for the future, while Tabutsadze has twice the number of tries to his name as he does appearances.
All the talk this weekend will be of Georgia, the Six Nations and whether they should join or replace Italy in Europe’s elite competition. With South Africa sniffing around the tournament following their Rugby Championship departure, a shake-up is on the cards regardless of how Georgia go over the course of the next four weeks, but Maisashvili has stressed the importance of not letting that talk get carried away.
“It’s difficult to say what will be success,” the Georgia coach said. “We cannot measure from wins or losses because we are standing against one of the strongest teams in the world – we are playing at Twickenham, it’s a big opportunity for us to play in such a big tournament.
“But we are currently preparing a new team. We have a lot of young players in our squad who have a big opportunity to get big experience from the game and one thing I will promise everyone that everyone who will be on the field, will do everything and do our best.
“One thing I exactly promise, Georgia will fight in every game and we will take from every game experience, and game after game we will try to show we are getting better. But to measure our results in the tournament and decide our place in the Six Nations or not, I don’t think that’s the correct way to measure it.”
It is all about development for both sides, and although come Saturday it will come down to who is up for the fight and who isn’t, the watching eyes in the Twickenham stands will already be deciding who is putting their hand up for France 2023.
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