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Date: 18th September 2011
Time: 07:00 BST (20:30 NZST)
Venue: Otago Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (RSA)
Georgia have a short turnaround ahead of their next match against 2007 finalists England. The chariot is certainly swinging low for the English, and with a Georgia pack on the prowl for first tier scalps, can Johnson’s men get their campaign back to where it needs to be.
For all the talk, analysis and metaphors, it is safe to say England’s match against Argentina was a let down. In my key clash preview, I said they would win by nine points before a few readers then commented they expected it to be more. I imagine that I can safely say every single one of us breathed a sigh of relief come final whistle on Saturday morning. Now they face a Georgia side bursting with confidence after giving the Scots a real scare in their first match. There must be no complacency come Sunday.
Let’s not dress it up, England were found to be lacking in certain areas against Argentina last weekend. You can be the most rose-tinted fan ever, but if you didn’t rest your head in your hands at least once against the Pumas, you’re a blind, and very naive, optimist. Discipline, as usual, held no reins and, were it not for a few missed kicks, it would mean I would be talking about a loss last weekend. The back line failed to come into the game and Wilkinson couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn door even if he tried! Kickers have off days, but it is so out of character for the Toulon man. They come into this match as favourites but will want, and need, to prove a point to the southern hemisphere sides.
Ahead of the World Cup, everyone was talking about the Georgian pack, but still, these lads are monsters. They don’t have a forwards coach because the last one they had is six feet under. He isn’t dead, he was just scrummed there in a training session once and they haven’t found him yet. England losing Sheridan will mean the Georgians smell blood, and if they are to cause the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history, this is where it will come through. They shoved Scotland around a lot in torrential conditions, and will now have the belief they can do the same to the English.
What to expect:
Pretty much as above. Georgian forwards piling in and looking to match the English up front, taking advantage of some questionable tactics at the ruck. Ben Youngs is back so as long as he can get quick ball and the back row is quick to clear out, they should be fine. But if they get bogged down the Georgians will need no invitation to rampage over.
All eyes on:
Despite the pack set to be central to the match, it will be interesting to see how England’s back three play. They need to be piling the pressure on a second rate back line and crossing the gain line constantly. In the last few matches they haven’t exactly set the world alight so need to prove their worth.
Head-to-head: Front three
With the Top 14 experience the business end of the scrum has, this will be where they will want to match England. Some of the members of the pack from that one good season England had in 2003 have already said that they are as physical as any of the top eight nations, so making sure there are no slip ups starts here.
Last fixture: England 84-6 Georgia, Perth, Australia, October 12, 2003
Weather Forecast: Sunny (surprisingly for Dunedin)
With the likes of Ben Youngs back I imagine England to use quick ball. They aren’t going to want to get bogged down in trench warfare and will look to run the Georgian pack and backs off their feet. If you have a fantasy team pick Ashton and Foden as they will find gaps left by the centres. England to win but Georgia to ask questions early on. England by 16 points.
By Nick Winn