Next week’s final between England and France at Twickenham has the makings of a classic, at least until you factor in that France, it seems, will not have any of the first-choice selection available. An agreement between the clubs and the national side stipulates that no French player can feature more than three times for Fabien Galthie’s side this autumn, and he’s already selected a full-strength side three times.
What will be will be - join us for finals weekend and let’s see what happens. Thanks for reading today and thanks for your emails, and see you next time. Bye!
In other news, there’s a tremendous kerfuffle going on over in Bahrain, where Romain Grosjean walked away from a 1970s-style fireball following a crash on the first lap. Then there was another crash when the grand prix restarted. John Brewin has all the latest right here:
Brian Barcroft emails: “Georgia impressive. For an underfunded national federation and a team with little preparation they have improved with the experience that they have gained in each match. We have now had an eight team tournament. Why not invite Georgia into the Six Nations even if as a sort of “guest” team. It is imperative that the established Six Nations teams do what they can to spread the rugby gospel.”
Impressive they certainly were - add that wonderful try to their all-round physicality and it was a good day for them. There was a slightly strange air to the match in the final quarter - even if Georgia were on the back foot in terms of territory and possession, they were urging each other on to greater and greater efforts in repelling Ireland. It felt a bit like they were ‘winning’ - and in turn Ireland looked a bit deflated by it all, the way they struggled to break Georgia down, especially in view of how dangerous the hosts looked in the first half, crossing the whitewash twice.
With regards to the Six Nations, or at least some further recognition as a force in rugby and inclusion from the top nations going forward, Georgia have made a strong point today. As was mentioned in commentary by Flannery, and as Brian writes above, you can’t expect them to compete on the same terms with the lack of preparation and funding, so it’s a chicken-and-egg thing with regards to admission to the Six Nations.
Here’s a replay of Burns’ sniping first-half try thanks to the magic of Twitter:
And here is Keenan’s try which came six minutes before half-time, thanks to a lovely arrowed pass by Stockdale:
The line-up for finals weekend in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup is as follows:
England v France
Ireland v Scotland
Wales v Italy
Georgia v Fiji
What did you think of the match, then? Email me here, if you like!
Full-time! Ireland 23-10 Georgia
A disappointing second half for Ireland - but a win is a win. They will face Scotland in the third-place match next week.
“They’ll be very frustrated,” says Rory Best in the Channel 4 studio. “Ireland tried to out-muscle Georgia, and they are not big enough to do that ... they need to be more clever.”
Judging on the second half you would say that is a fair assessment. Flannery on co-comms, who was my man of the match, said it was like watching a schools game between one team with no rugby programme but a very willing bunch of players who put their bodies on the line, and another with all the knowledge, coaching and preparation, who were unable to make it count. That feels pretty spot-on: Georgia just kept coming in defence, they were mostly on top in the scrum, they drove Ireland back in tackles and they competed incredibly strongly at the breakdown.
In the first half, I think Ireland showed a nice amount of variety in their attacking play. Burns going off injured was one of the things that cost them, as he had a fine first half. But overall there is a worry for Ireland that again they seemed to lack a bit of leadership and composure to maybe change things up when it wasn’t working. Perhaps easier said than done, because Georgia were very, very impressive - mostly in defence in the second half, but also with that stunning score from the outside centre, Kveseladze, in the first half.
80 min + 2: Georgia win another penalty and kick for territory with the clock red. Ireland turn it over from the lineout and have possession around halfway. There’s a good sequence of passing through the hands, with Stander smashing through a tackle (an increasingly rare sight in this second half) ... and now it’s all over.
80 min: Another attacking lineout for Ireland ends with a rumble for the line and CJ Stander carries the ball over, but yet again, there is some astonishingly strong and impressive defence from Georgia, and he is held up. A five-metre scrum for Ireland is the result.
78 min: Ireland have possession deep in the Georgian half. They smash away a few times within a few metres of the try line after an attacking lineout. Can they add a try to put a little bit of gloss on the scoreline?
75 min: This hasn’t been the second half that Ireland were hoping for. It looked good in the first half but Georgia have refused to wilt in this second half and Farrell’s side have failed to build any continuity in attack and have been forced back in the scrum and, at times, at the breakdown. It’s been a game of two halves, and Georgia have ‘won’ the second half, if not technically on the scoreboard then in terms of their physical commitment.
72 min: Georgia try to build an attack from their own half. Kveseladze tries to spin a pass out wide to Niniashvili, but it’s fairly wild, and very forward, and it flies straight out into touch. On the positive side Georgia are showing some ambition. Ireland get the ball back and attack through the middle, and John Ryan carries into the opposition’s half, but Kveseladze grabs him and drives him back and wins a penalty for his effort.
“That’s their outside centre driving Ireland’s replacement prop back down the field,” remarks an astonished Flannery.
67 min: The injury to Gorgadze, and the replacements, have taken all the momentum out of this match for the moment. But now Ireland can reset and try to make the most of this last 10 minutes or so. The 18-year-old full back Davit Niniashvili has come on for Georgia, his first cap. It’s 3-3 in the second half as it stands, with 13 points in it. Ireland have a dart down the left, and a grubber kick is sent through into the danger zone, but Georgia deal with it.
64 min: Tapladze is also on for Georgia now. There’s another scrum, and again Georgia’s pack get right on top of their opposite numbers. They continue to impress in all the physical exchanges, both at the scrum and at the breakdown. Ireland have simply not been able to exert the kind of dominance they’d have hoped for, especially at the breakdown.
63 min: A couple of minutes ago, Quinn Roux and flanker Peter O’Mahony came on for Ireland. Meanwhile there is an injury to Georgia’s Gorgadze which looks like it might be serious. Shane Daly also comes on for Ireland replacing Earls - his first cap. “He’s a real player, he’s got great footwork ... and he has a real work ethic,” says Flannery.
Chkoidze is on for Abzhandadze, for Georgia, and Gorgadze has gone off with that injury.
62 min: “Jerry Flannery has often been dubbed the David Attenborough of rugby.”
Wide of the mark in my view: Attenborough knows next to nothing about the dark art of front-row play.
59 min: Penalty! Ireland 23-10 Georgia (Byrne)
Georgia are penalised at the breakdown and Byrne strokes over a fairly straightforward penalty. Ireland have a little more daylight. But if they were hoping to open up and play a bit of champagne rugby in this second half, they have not been allowed to so far.
58 min: Flannery is enlightening again on the scrum, with reference to that latest penalty for Georgia: “A lot of referees will referee the picture they see when the scrum finishes ... if they see a loosehead’s arm on the floor they will think: “He’s hinged,” and give the penalty. But it was a fair decision, I think.”
55 min: Right, back on the pitch, Georgia are showing no signs of wilting here. They are competing both physically and tactically. Conor Murray now has the put-in for ireland at a scrum, in the Georgian half ... and the Georgian pack destroys their opposition and win another scrum penalty! They whoop with delight, as forwards tend to do under those circumstances.
51 min: Peter Stringer, pitchside, referring to Jerry Flannery’s insight on co-comms: “He spent most of his career in the stands watching ... so coaching was a natural progression for him.” Ouch!
Earlier on, Flannery spoke about Stringer ‘sulking’ after a poor display against Georgia at the 2007 World Cup. But Miles Harrison has just established that the two former Munster men were roommates, so I think this is all friendly banter.
48 min: Penalty! Ireland 20-10 Georgia (Abzhandadze)
The visitors are not out of this. Before today they hadn’t registered so much as a point in their previous Autumn Nations Cup games, and now they have 10.
45 min: The Ireland fly-half Billy Burns has picked up a knock of some sort and goes off. Ross Byrne comes on in his place. There is frustration for Georgia, who waste a good attacking platform following that penalty, and Ireland can clear their lines following a strong scrum, at which they now win a penalty.
“The front row is like a nail, they have to be as square and as straight as possible, then the power to drive through comes from the back five.” A nice bit of scrum insight from the co-commentator Jerry Flannery.
44 min: Georgia move through a few phases of possession early in the second half. They then win a penalty just over halfway at a scrum, with Bealham under big pressure in Ireland’s front row. The referee initially plays advantage, but then brings it back for the scrum penalty, and Abzhandadze kicks for the corner.
42 min: Thanks Deven Anand for your email:
“Georgia is looking more and more like the side it truly is, tough, hard-scrumming big blokes. And the new age of Georgian Rugby looks exciting, that try by Kveseladze was about as un-Georgian as it gets! I think some of their earlier horrendous outings in this competition can be put down to Covid-related lack of practice and games. Would be a lot closer game if they knew how to win their own lineouts, but still, improvements being shown. I’m a happy Georgia supporter right now.”
Here we go again. Can Ireland turn on the style or will Georgia make this a thriller?
A spot of half-time reading -
And over in Bahrain, there has been high drama at the grand prix, with Romain Grosjean’s car bursting into flames after a heavy crash on the first lap:
Half-time! Ireland 20-7 Georgia
Farrell and Ireland should be happy with that. They have shown a nice all-round balance to their play, and they have converted defence into attack with considerable skill. and they have taken their chances. Burns has been excellent at fly-half, as has Farrell in the centre. It was a wonderful try by Kveseladze for Georgia, too. Good stuff all round. What do you think, Ireland fans, and indeed Georgia fans? Drop me an email and let me know. I’ll be back soon.
39 min: Disallowed try! Ireland 20-7 Georgia
Ireland are playing some superb stuff. They spoil and snatch another Georgia lineout ... CJ Stander makes a burst near halfway on the right, then they switch the play and again it’s an excellent looping pass by Stockdale that finds the Ulster centre McCloskey on the left wing. He has options as he runs along the line, with a teammate on his right shoulder, but he just pins his ears back and bursts over the line in the corner. It’s a brilliant score, but the TMO wants to have a look at Stockdale’s pass. On replay it emerges that it’s fractionally forward. It looked fine in real-time, and in truth I don’t think anyone would have minded too much if that score had been allowed to stand. It certainly would have done in the pre-TMO days. Ah well.
Try! 34 min: Ireland 20-7 Georgia (Keenan)
Ireland are showing an excellent mix of physicality and guile here. Farrell smashes into contact in a central area, then there is space on the right, and a fine, arrowing pass by Stockdale finds Keenan in plenty of space in the corner. he collects it and is over for another try, and Burns continues to notch up more points with an excellent conversion from a tight angle. As we expected, Ireland are coming out on top in more collisions today than they did against England, and that is earning them the space and the time to hurt their opponents with the ball in hand.
32 min: Georgia are defending for their lives here, having been pinned back within metres of their own try line for the past four or five minutes. After a couple of scrums, Ireland nearly get over the line - it looks like Herring may have rumbled over for another Irish try. The TMO is having a look. The decision is no try. The Georgia No 8, Gorgadze, did superbly well in defence there to keep Herring out.
28 min: Ireland have a defensive lineout in their 22. A fantastic chase by Keenan sees him soar into the air and claim a well-judged box kick by Murray. Then McCloskey strikes a lovely low grubber kick for the corner, and all of a sudden Georgia are pinned back on their own line. Excellent stuff from the home side.
26 min: There is a scrum on halfway, Ireland’s put-in. It all comes apart, Georgia win a penalty, and they celebrate. “You are walking around,” the referee Mathieu Raynal tells Ireland. But on replay it looks very much like Ireland kept their shape shoved Georgia back, if anything, and the decision should have gone the other way. A classic example of the subjectivity of these scrum penalty calls.
25 min: Rob Kearney, at pitchside, is full of praise for that Georgia score: “The competition needed it, they needed it, and no one can begrudge them that. It was a superbly taken try. Hopefully we can see some more attacking intent like that from them.”
Penalty! 23 min: Ireland 13-7 Georgia (Burns)
The visitors are penalised around the tackle area yet again, and Burns strokes another penalty through the posts.
20 min: Looking to hit back immediately, the Irish full back Stockdale chucks a nice dummy and then chases his own kick down the left wing. It looks for a moment like he might be able to make it but Matiashvili, his opposite number, is there to tidy up.
Try! 17 min: Ireland 10-7 Georgia (Giorgi Kveseladze)
Magnificent run, magnificent try right under the posts from the Georgian No 13. There didn’t appear to be much on, but lovely soft hands in midfield sent Kveseladze tearing through the middle of the Irish defence. He has a teammate on his right shoulder, throws a dummy and bravely ploughs on for the line, correctly judging that he has the strength and momentum to hold off the Irish tackles. Lovely score - the first points that Georgia have mustered in this entire competition.
Penalty! 13 min: Ireland 10-0 Georgia (Burns)
It gets better for Ireland. Burns smacks a penalty straight through the posts from right in front. Georgia had been penalised for not rolling away, I think.
Try! 9 min: Ireland 7-0 Georgia (Burns)
A lovely show-and-go and a little sniping run by Burns and he is over the line! That all came from Georgia messing up a lineout in their own 22. The ball bounced into touch and gave Ireland their own lineout. Ireland then smashed their way towards the posts, they moved it back to the left wing, where Keith Earls nearly got over but was held up just short. Then the ball was spun back into the middle of the pitch, where some lovely hands by Chris Farrell found Billy Burns in space, with the opposing defence very stretched indeed after Ireland had worked through multiple phases. Burns didn’t need to be asked twice, chucked a little dummy, and darted over the line. Nice score. Burns adds the extras from his own five-pointer.
8 min: Beirne pulls off an excellent turnover for Ireland, to the frustration of the Georgian coaches. Meanwhile Conor Murray has picked up a little knock, and is having a chat with the physio. Georgia are under a little territory pressure after that turnover with a lineout in their own 22.
3 min: Ireland have an attacking line-out on their left, and they get it right, which will be a relief after the malfunctions against England. Conor Murray finds Stuart McCloskey rushing straight and hard inside the Georgia 22, trying to punch a hole in the defensive line. It nearly works but Georgia scramble successfully. Georgia have a defensive scrum - at which they win a penalty, Ireland’s Bealham being penalised by the French referee.
2 min: Ireland start on the front foot. Burns puts a good little dinked kick up over the defensive line, which Georgia deal with, then Chris Farrell puts in a grubber towards the right-hand corner. Georgia deal with that too, but it’s immediately clear that Ireland are going to try and keep their opponents guessing when they have the ball in hand.
The teams are on the pitch. We have a moment of silence to pay respects to Christophe Dominici, the brilliant France wing who died a few days ago. And now it’s time for the anthems.
By the way, I should mention that France guaranteed their place in next week’s final by beating Italy in Paris last night. Ireland are set to play Scotland, the second-placed team in Group B, next weekend.
There’s just time for a bit of pre-match reading.
Here is Andy Bull on England’s win in Wales, specificially Sam Underhill’s strong showing:
Meanwhile, British Airways made a bit of a boo-boo yesterday by tweeting support for England in Wales:
The former Ireland back Rob Kearney, on Channel 4 pundit duty: “We want to see Jacob Stockdale get back on the horse after a poor performance, by his standards, in Paris.”
And the former captain Rory Best, in the studio: “Georgia are going to be just as physical as England were, so Ireland will need to front up. I want to seem them dominate the breakdown.”
As stated, Farrell has made nine changes for Ireland. With Johnny Sexton still sidelined, the lock James Ryan captains Ireland at home for the first time. Jacob Stockdale is restored at full-back, Hugo Keenan starts on the right wing and Keith Earls on the left. Stuart McCloskey is at inside centre alongside Chris Farrell at No 13 with McCloskey’s provincial colleague, Billy Burns, making his full debut at No 10. Conor Murray is at scrum-half.
Finlay Bealham plays loosehead prop, with Rob Herring and Andrew Porter completing the front row. Iain Henderson is alongside Ryan in the second row and lastly, in the back row, CJ Stander switches to No 8 with Will Connors at No 7 and Tadhg Beirne on the blindside. Shane Daly of Munster is poised to make his debut off the replacements bench.
Ireland: Stockdale, Keenan, Farrell, McCloskey, Earls, Burns, Murray, Bealham, Herring, Porter, Henderson, J. Ryan, Beirne, Connors, Stander. Replacements: Heffernan, Healy, J. Ryan, Roux, O’Mahony, Marmion, R. Byrne, Daly.
For Georgia, the 20-year-old scrum-half Mishiko Alania and 18-year-old full back Davit Niniashvili are named in the matchday squad for the first time. So it will be fascinating to see them get a run-out.
Georgia: Matiashvili, Tabutsadze, Kveseladze, Sharikadze, Mchedlidze, Abzhandadze, Lobzhanidze, Nariashvili, Mamukashvilli, Gigashvili, Cheishvili, Jaiani, Saghinadze, Jalaghonia, Gorgadze. Replacements: Chkoidze, Kaulashvili, Melikidze, Javakhia, Gachechiladze, Alania, Tapladze, Niniashvili.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
In the build-up to this afternoon’s meeting with Georgia, the Ireland forwards coach John Fogarty said they are ‘expecting a battle up front’, which is not the most insightful pre-match analysis you will ever hear. This Georgian side is famous for its forward muscle. But sarcasm aside, this is a big day for Ireland, who need to reassert themselves following that pasting at Twickenham last week.
It’s an especially big day for the Ulster fly-half Billy Burns, who will make his full debut, and overall for an Ireland side which features nine changes. By extension it’s a big day for Andy Farrell and his coaching team who need to show that progress is being made and that they are developing a new identity post-Joe Schmidt.
A criticism of their performance at Twickenham last week is they played into English hands by running straight and looking for contact. Perhaps such a policy would pay off today, given Georgia’s inferior fitness to England, but then again Ireland might do well to chuck the ball around a bit as well. England cannot be caught atop Group A, so it would make sense to put some emphasis on entertainment as well as achieving the right result at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road in old money.
Team news and MUCH more coming right up.