Autumn Nations Cup: Wales v Georgia preview, teams & key stats

Under pressure Wales coach Wayne Pivac giving out instructions in training
Under pressure Wales coach Wayne Pivac giving out instructions in training
Venue: Parc y Scarlets Date: Sat, 21 Nov Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Coverage: Live text and BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Radio 5 Live commentary on the BBC Sport website and app; live on S4C

Wales will be looking to end a run six defeats when they entertain Georgia on Saturday and have an almost new-look side on display in Llanelli.

Wales have gone 294 days since winning a Test match and have equalled their worst results sequence since a team in 2012 and 2013 that lost eight matches.

Head coach Wayne Pivac has so far only presided over victories against Italy in February and an uncapped fixture against the Barbarians in November 2019.

Another win is essential, for Pivac especially, against a Georgian side looking to establish themselves among Europe’s elite.

Georgia are opponents Wales beat 43-14 in their last meeting at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, two years after an unconvincing 13-6 victory for the home side in Cardiff.

Georgia have lost 40-0 to England and 48-7 against Scotland in recent weeks but should provide Wales with a tough test up front.

Wales’ scrum and lineout malfunctioned in the last two games against Scotland and Ireland, while they conceded a total of 34 penalties across both games. Those set-piece issues will not have gone unnoticed in Georgia’s camp.

Former Ulster fly-half David Humphreys and head coach Neil Doak have taken up Georgia coaching roles for the tournament.

Humphreys left his role as Gloucester’s director of rugby in June and will take on a high performance consultant role with the Lelos. Doak has become Georgia’s backs and attack coach.

Former French international hooker Sebastian Bruno has become the forwards coach, a position he held with Les Bleus at the Rugby World Cup last year.

Team news

Pivac has made 13 personnel changes with only Justin Tipuric and Liam Williams surviving from the starting side that lost 32-9 to Ireland in Dublin. Tipuric leads the side in the absence of Alun Wyn Jones.

James Botham, grandson of England cricket great Lord Botham, will makes his Wales debut.

The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker was called up to Wales’ Nations Cup squad on Monday and he has played just 13 professional games.

But Cardiff-born Botham, whose father Liam played rugby union and rugby league for a number of clubs, is among three newcomers selected to face Georgia alongside Scarlets backs Johnny Williams and Kieran Hardy.

Former London Irish and Newcastle centre Williams, meanwhile, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year and underwent chemotherapy before returning to professional rugby 10 months ago.

He represented England and scored a try in a non-cap game against the Barbarians in 2019, but qualifies for Wales through his father, who hails from Rhyl.

Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy and 19-year-old Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit will make their first Test starts after debuts as substitutes in recent games against Ireland and France respectively.

Liam Williams switches to full-back with his Scarlets team-mate Johnny McNicholl being elevated to the starting side on the wing after also being called up to the squad just this week.

Georgia make five changes from their defeat against England with lock Kote Mikautadze winning his 65th cap after being given time off to sort out his move to Bayonne.

Four players return after starting the Lelos’ previous match in Scotland – their most experienced scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze, 87-cap winger Sandro Todua, hooker Jaba Bregvadze, and flanker Otar Giorgadze.

Eight of the starting 15 are currently with French clubs, including Brive half-backs Lobzhanidze and Tedo Abzhandadze, and six of the forwards.

View from both camps

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “The pressure comes internally. We are with each other every day of the week, the players want to improve and a lot of hard work is going in.

“Certainly, we understand that results are what people want to see, and we want to see those ourselves. The guys will be out there very determined to not only win the game, but put in a very good performance. Ultimately that’s what we’re after.”

Georgia head coach Levan Maisashvili: “We do not intend to give up anything in the set-piece. We were not quite confident in that respect in the previous games, but had prepared way better for this match, I am expecting a strong and powerful game from our boys.

“Wales have lost six in a row but we know that they’re not a bad side. They maybe just lack a little cohesion with possible changes to their playing systems post Warren Gatland and sometimes it takes a number of games to get confidence in a new way of playing.

“The key for us is we have to do our basics well and that starts from believing we’re a good side and then taking that onto the field.”


Wales: Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit; Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Seb Davies, James Botham, Justin Tipuric (capt), Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Davies, Rhys Webb, Ioan Lloyd, Jonah Holmes.

Georgia: Lasha Khmaladze; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (capt), Sandro Todua; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Beka Gigashvili, Grigor Kerdikoshvili, Kote Mikautadze, Otar Giorgadze, Beka Saginadze, Beka Gorgadze.

Replacements: Giorgi Chkoidze, Guram Gogichashvili, Lexo Kaulashvili, Lasha Jaiani, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Gela Aprasidze, Demur Tapladze, Tamaz Mchedlidze.

Match officials

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)

Assistant referees: Andrew Brace and Frank Murphy (both IRFU)

TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU).

BBC News