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Preview: Scotland v Georgia

Preview: Scotland v Georgia

Scotland and Georgia lock horns once again on Friday night with both sides aiming to finish their Rugby World Cup warm-up campaigns on a high.

Neither side will want to get on the plane to the Far East licking their wounds after a heavy defeat.

And after both countries confirmed their 31-man squads this week, optimism is high.

In Scotland’s case, Gregor Townsend’s men are aiming for a third consecutive win to build momentum into the showpiece.

Their impressive six-try win over the same opponents last week in Tbilisi will give them plenty of confidence but the head coach has rung the changes for this Friday.

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Twelve new faces come into the starting XV for the BT Murrayfield farewell to their home fans, including an entirely new pack.

Only Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn remain from the side that travelled to Georgia last week.

Meanwhile, the visitors have been boosted by the return from retirement this week of legend Mamuka Gorgodze.

‘Gorgodzilla’ retired two years ago but was named in their 31-man squad this week, however he will not feature on Friday in Edinburgh.

Georgia change just three as they look for some continuity heading into a tough Pool D that includes Guinness Six Nations champions Wales, Australia and Fiji.

Scotland v Georgia, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Friday 6 September, 7:30PM

WHAT THEY SAID

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend:

“It’s another opportunity for players to get valuable game time and build on what was a very good performance last weekend in Georgia.

“We are very aware that Georgia will be much improved after their first hit out of the season and they will know much more about how we play.

“Friday night gives us the opportunity to keep improving and get one step closer to playing our best rugby over the next few weeks.”

Georgia legend Mamuka Gorgodze on his return from retirement:

“I had a solid decision not to return to international rugby, but the current situation in a team, caused my return – I was needed, and I came back!

“Two of our strong players got injuries – team captain Merab Sharikadze and Giorgi Tsutskiridze, who was in outstanding shape. It’s a huge disappointment for him, but he is young, and he should not give it up. I am sure he will get his opportunity in the future.”

“I decided to retire two years ago, as I wished the fans to remember Mamuka Gorgodze at his best, meanwhile I wanted the young players to get their chance. During these three years, I was repeatedly approached with offers to change this decision, but I always refused. And when those injuries took place, players told me that I simply had to come back.

“I got a call from (prime minister) Mamuka Bakhtadze as well and I decided to return.”

KEY BATTLE – Ali Price v Vasil Lobzhanidze

The scrum-half face off will be pivotal tomorrow night.

Price had won the Scotland No.9 jersey by the end of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, but is in a real battle with Greig Laidlaw to hold onto it for Japan.

The livewire Glasgow Warrior is paired again with clubmate Adam Hastings and will be desperate for a strong showing.

Vasil Lobzhanidze is, simply put, the heartbeat of this Georgian team.

So much of the creative pressure sits on his shoulders and if Price can get on top, then Scotland will hope for a similar margin of victory to last week.

GUINNESS SIX NATIONS – STATS POWERED BY AWS

• Scotland’s defence needs tightening up, they conceded the most line breaks of any team during the 2019 Championship (30)
• Their scrum however was the most secure of any side, winning 96% of their own scrums
• Blair Kinghorn carried for more meters than any other player in the 2019 Championship with 492.6m
• Jamie Ritchie managed four breakdown steals across the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, only Tom Curry and Peter O’Mahony managed more (both 5)
• Allan Dell made more tackles than any other Scotsman and the fifth most in the Championship while he was also cleaned out more rucks than any other player from the Six Nations (68)

MATCH NOTES

• Gregor Townsend’s side includes two players on the bench who did not make his 31-man squad for Japan – flanker Magnus Bradbury and hooker Grant Stewart
• Scotland ran in six tries last week when they met in Tbilisi.
• Georgia’s Davit Kacharava starts in the centres, making him the most capped international from his country of all time with 116 caps

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson (c), Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, George Horne, Peter Horne, Chris Harris

Georgia: Soso Matiashvili, Zurab Dzneladze, Davit Katcharava, Lasha Malaghuradze, Mirian Modebadze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanide; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Giorgi Nemsadze, Shalva Sutiashvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Beka Gorgadze
Replacements: Giorgi Kveseladze, Tamaz Mtchedlidze, Gela Aprasidze, Vano Karkadze, Guram Gogichashvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Lasha Lomidze, Beka Saghinadze