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‘We’re expecting a battle up front and are prepared for one’

Georgia may be ranked 12th in the world but their front row is top class, says Ireland scrum coach, John Fogarty.

Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty is expecting a battle up front.
Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty is expecting a battle up front.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

THEY ARE RUGBY’S version of the in-betweeners, far too good for the B-listers, not quite up to it when pitted against the Tier One nations.

Tomorrow, at the Aviva Stadium, you will get to see it for yourself, precisely where Georgia pose a threat and where they fall short. To give you a clue in advance, look at the scorelines from their last three matches: England beat them 40-0, Wales 18-0, Scotland 48-7.

So don’t expect a try-fest from the travelling Lelos contingent. But do expect an old-fashioned scrap between the respective front-rows. “They are a very physical team, have a huge amount of experience in the front row alone,” says Ireland scrum coach, John Fogarty.

“Their pack, and how they front up physically, is a challenge in itself. The half-backs have a tremendous amount of experience; their nine – Vasil Lobzhanidze – is a real threat.

“So, with this in mind, we have to make sure we don’t let them into the game around Lobzhanidze. His kicking game is an area we looked at during the week to make sure we go nice and tidily in that department.”

Deep down, for all the respect and politeness that comes with these pre-match queries, Ireland know they should win tomorrow. The real challenge is to do so in a manner that is easy on the eye against a side who have lost all of the 23 internationals they have played against the ten Tier 1 nations. Worse again, the six additional games they’ve had against Ireland’s Wolfhounds and Emerging Ireland sides have also ended in defeats.

“Look, they have built up quite a bit of cohesion over the last couple of games (against England and Wales), so us having a controlled start is important,” Fogarty said. “We want to start fast but us having some control over what we are doing is important so we can get on the front foot.

“We are looking for a good performance, as we always do. The week has been good. When you lose the learnings are so important, so the way we have gone about our week (post Twickenham), has been vital. We want to take opportunities when we get them tomorrow.”

In terms of specifics, the Twickenham post-mortem centred on two areas in particular: the decision-making at the set-piece and the technical aspects of the scrum.

“There were times against England when we got a little bit caught in calling,” Fogarty says, “so we have reduced that a little bit in terms of options and have worked on making sure our drill is really strong so that there are nice targets for hookers.

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“With our scrum, we don’t want to creak early. Against a really experienced Georgian front row, we want to be in a strong position when it comes to the bind part of the scrum; that is an area that we have looked at this week, to make sure the set is on our terms.

“But there are other pieces in there as well. We want to be a cohesive unit, we want to be as eight; we want a shared mentality in what we are doing as well and not be distracted.”

It won’t be easy, he maintains.“Georgia’s front row has got a lot of power; plus they have been in three battles up to now and they fight the whole way through it. So, if we let them control it on crouch, bind, it can lead to problems. We are looking to make sure we are very controlled on those two parts of the scrum.

“They are a very cohesive unit, there is lots of experience in there, they are playing top end rugby in Montpellier, Toulon, so we are expecting a battle up front and are prepared for one.”

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Garry Doyle

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