By Kaylan Geekie | UWS Sport
- European Nations Cup Winners (9): 2001, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
- Rank: 11th
- Coach: Milton Haig
- Captain: Mamuku Gorgodza
- Top try scorer: Mamuku Gorgodza 26 tries
- Nickname: The Lelos (Lelo is also the word for try)
- Beaten all three Pacific Island teams: Tonga 3, Samoa 2 and Fiji 1
Scotland take on Georgia in their final Autumn International of 2016 at Rugby Park on Saturday and the second time that the national team has played at the venue.
The Scots previous visit to Ayrshire was in November 2014 where they defeated Tonga 37-12. It was the first time an international rugby match was played on a synthetic 3G pitch.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has made five changes to the side which beat the Pumas 19-16 at Murrayfield last week.
Mark Bennett takes over from Huw Jones, while in the front row Ross Ford replaces Fraser Brown at hooker.
Richie Gray has recovered from a head injury and replaces Grant Gilchrist while in the back row Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson come in for Marcus Bradbury and John Barclay.
Cotter acknowledged that the Lelos will not be taken lightly. He said: “We’ve got a lot of respect for Georgia. It will be a tough game and with a fair bit at stake.”
The stakes the Kiwi is talking about are World Rugby ranking points which will determine the seeds for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The Scots moved up to 7th after beating Los Pumas on Saturday and there can be no room for error, if they are to get a favourable draw in May.
Cotter’s chargers are in for another physical battle. Georgia are renowned for the scrum and 15 of their forwards play in England and France, countries famed for their forward play.
“Georgia are striving to be among the world’s best as they knock on the door of the top ten in the world rankings,” he said.
“We are expecting a typical Georgian game. They will be physical up front as they play a forwards-based game, however they are also developing their backs.”
The Lelos went unbeaten in this year’s European Nations Cup, winning all 10 matches in the competition and had a successful tour of the Pacific Islands, defeating Tonga 23-20, Fiji 14-3 and drawing 19-all with Samoa.
Georgia’s continued dominance in Europe’s second-tier rugby tournament has seen calls for them to be allowed entry into the Six Nations.
Jonny Gray is not taking them lightly and knows they are in for a scrap. “In the summer they had some great results,” he said.
“When you look at their pack, they’re hugely physical, a set-piece team and they’ve got some big men.
“We know it is going to be a huge challenge at Rugby Park but we are excited to play there again.”
Hamish Watson is also not underestimating the challenge: “Georgia is going to be a tough battle,” he said.
“Pretty similar to the Argentines in some respects, they have a very big forward pack but it’s something that we’ll work on this week.”