Saturday, June 16, 2012

USA vs Georgia Preview

The first home test for the USA Eagles will take place this afternoon in Denver, Colorado as the United States of America host Georgia for only the third ever test match betweent he two Tier Two rugby nations. For followers of the IRB World Rankings the match is a very important one as Georgia is ranked 14th in the world and the USA 17th. With a gap between the two of roughly five rankings points the USA could lead ahead of Fiji and Japan. The match is also one of global interest with both sides have completed victories at Rugby World Cup 2011 and both being certain participants in Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. 

Lelos Flyhalf: Kvirikashvili
The Georgian team named is, however, not a reflection of the true strenghts of the Lelos. The biggest name in the history of Georgian rugby is missing as Mamuka Gorgodza is not touring. He had an outstanding World Cup and was named the best foriegner of the 2010-2011 season playing for Montpellier in the Top 14. He is, however, just the tip of the iceburg as Georgia are missing a large list of players, particularly in the forwards with all of Vasil Kakovin (Toulouse), Davit Khinchagishvili (Brive), Anton Peikrishvili (Castres), Goderdzi Shvelidze (Brive), Jaba Bregvadze (Toulouse), Irakli Natriashvili (Brive), Akvsenti Giorgadze (Toulouse), Giorgi Jgenti (Montpellier), Davit Kubriashvili (Toulon), Beka Sheklashvili (Dax), Levan Datunashvili (Aurillac), Giorgi Nemsadze (Tarbes), Shalva Sutiashvili (Massy), Vito Kolelishvili (Clermont), Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier), Dimitri Basilaia (Edinburgh) and Giorgi Skhinin not in North America. As such the match looks like not being as competitive as it should be with the USA haveing a significant advantage. 

USA Coach: Mike Tolkin
Last week the USA did well vs Canada and very nearly won. The 28-25 loss showed that the intent of the USA is to develop more of an attacking game with the idea simply being to score more tries. At Rugby World Cup 2011 under the command of Ireland´ Eddie O´Sullivan the USA scored only four tries, the least of all teams at the tournament. The USA scored one try vs each of Ireland, Russia, Australia and Italy and did well in defence but was unable to deliver with ball in hand. In Toronto the signs of significant change were evident as the USA scored three tries and played with plenty of width. The team has gone through a number of changes since the World Cup with Mike Tolkin now coaching the team. He was the teams defensive coach at the World Cup and proved to be effective as the USA only Australia was able to score four or more tries and that was against an purposely weakened side. He comes into the side with a reputation for success having helped establish the USA under 19 side and having coached in new York since 1987. 

Tolkin´ team to face Georgia is similar to that which faced Canada. Interestingly he has opted to start Roland Suniula at flyhalf in place of Will Holder who had an up and down debut performer for his country. The change is likely due to the fact that Georgia play a forwards brand of rugby with the flyhalf likely to be forced into tackling a lot of forwards. Italy, in contrast, will play with more width and the USA will face them next weekend. Holder could thus be simply being rested in preference to take on Italy. Taylor Mokate will start the match in the backrow in place of Andrew Durutalo  while ace prop forward, Mike MacDonald is also not starting. Otherwise, it is a strong USA team with Todd Clever looking to secure a home win to continue the growth of rugby in the USA and the quality of the national team. 

History: The brief history of international competition between the USA Eagles and Georgia Lelos is far from being conclusive. There have only ever been two matches played. The first took place in Colorado with the USA Eagles winning 31-13 in June 2009. The other match was played in Tblisi in November 2010 with Georgia scoring a try at the death to win 19-17. While the home team won on both ocaassions the Lelos team from the 2009 match was far from being at full strength, similar to the side named for this weekends match.

Key Match-Up: Two constrasting styles sees a forward orientated team in Georgia looking to overpower the backs orientated USA Eagles. An interesting battle will be that of Eric Fry vs Mikheil Nariashvili in the scrum. The old and the new will have an interesting clash with Taylor Mokate vs Grigol Labadze. The USA player having gone to New Zealand this season in search of improving his game while the Lelo has come out of retirement for this match. The most improtant clash, however, could well be that of Roland Suniula vs Merab Kvirikashvili  at flyhalf. They have different styles altogether with Suniula being a runner with success in Rugby Sevens while Kvirikashvili is very much a master of ten man rugby. 

Prediction: Given the number of Georgian forwards missing from the tour the chances of a Lelos victory do not appear to be strong. The USA played a goo game of rugby last weekend in Kingston, scoring impressive tries and should fancy doing just the same vs Georgia. USA to win by 12 points.

15 Chris Wyles (Saracens, England)
14 Luke Hume (Old Blue)
13 Paul Emerick (London Wasps, England)
12 Andrew Suniula (Cornish Pirates, England)
11 James Paterson (Glendale Raptors)
10 Roland Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
9 Mike Metri (New York AC)
8 Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs, Japan)
7 Scott LaValla (Stade Français, France)
6 Taylor Mokate (Wellington Old Boys, New Zealand)
5 Brian Doyle (New York AC)
4 Lou Stanfill (New York AC)
3 Eric Fry (Wellington Old Boys, New Zealand)
2 Chris Biller (Northampton Saints, England)
1  Shawn Pittman (London Welsh, England)

Reserves: 16 Derek Asbun, 17 Andre Liufau, 18 Mike MacDonald, 19 Andrew Durutalo, 20 Shaun Davies, 21, Will Holder, 22 Colin Hawley 

1 Mikheil Nariashvili  (Montpellier, France)
2. Revaz Belkania (La Seyne, France)
3. Davit Zirakashvili (Clermont, France)
4. Beka Bitsadze (Brive Espoirs, France)
5. Vakhtang Maisuradze (Albi, France)
6. Grigol Labadze (Unattached)
7. Givi Berishvili (Lokomotiv)
8. Giorgi Chkhaidze (Saint Junien, France)
9. Irakli Abuseridze (Auxerre, France)
10. Merab Kvirikashvili (Saint Junien, France)
11. Sandro Todua (Albi, France)
12. Merab Sharikadze (Hartpury College, England)
13. Davit Kacharava (Nice, France)
14. Irakli Machkhaneli (Saint Etienne, France)
15. Lasha Khmaladze (Lelo)

Reserves: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Irakli Mirtskhulava, 18 Zviad Maisuradze - Lokomotiv, 19 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 20 Giorgi Begadze, 21 Lasha Malaghuradze, 22. Irakli Kiasashvili 

Georgia vs USA 2010

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