Autumns Nations Cup: Fiji ready to face Georgia challenge
Fiji have been given the Covid all-clear and will make their long-awaited Autumn Nations Cup debut against Georgia on Saturday. Fiji have selected an exciting backline but their forwards will need to work hard against a hungry Georgia pack as they battle it out to avoid the wooden spoon
Last Updated: 03/12/20 2:31pm
Fiji will finally leave their French motel after almost a month of isolation on Thursday when they head to Scotland for their weekend Autumn Nations Cup clash against Georgia.
It will be the first outing for the Pacific islanders after scheduled group matches against France, Italy and Scotland were all cancelled after almost the entire squad and management were infected with COVID-19, days before their scheduled opening game last month.
They have since spent their time cloistered in a motel north of St Etienne, first in isolation before returning to full training at the start of the week.
"It was a great feeling to see the boys out on the field training, having fun throwing the ball around, even if the temperature was minus four degrees," coach Vern Cotter told The Independent.
"We have had our stand-down, 14 days of isolation and now we have the opportunity to drag something out of the competition."
Fiji will meet Georgia at Murrayfield on Saturday in the clash to avoid the competition's wooden spoon.
The match goes ahead after the Fiji party were given the all-clear. At the height of the infectious outbreak, 22 players and seven management staff from the 46-strong party tested positive at the same time.
"It was so disappointing as we were looking forward to getting stuck into this competition. But this is COVID, and with COVID, you don't look at blaming people," Cotter added.
Saturday marks a debut for new coach Cotter, who has given debuts to lock Temo Mayanavanua and flankers Johnny Dyer and Mesulame Kunavula while naming six uncapped players on the bench.
"The forwards are the first group that I'm really concerned about because we know they will be going to drive our lineouts and dominate our scrum and attack when we have the ball so we can't get the ball out to our exciting backline.
"We have a very established backline who have played together for many Tests and I expect them to be lethal if given quality possession. It's an exciting blend of experience and young players who want to establish themselves as Flying Fijians," he said
Meanwhile, Georgia have made three changes as they go in search of their first win in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Sandro Todua comes in on the wing in place of Tamaz Mchedlidze while Tornike Jalagonia moves to No 8 in place of the injured Beka Gorgadze, who has a knee injury, with Otar Giorgadze coming in on the flank.
At lock, Kote Mikautadze returns after a rib injury to replace Nodar Cheishvili.
"We selected the players who are best prepared for the game at the current moment. Unfortunately, we also have some injuries, which obviously influenced the selection process, and it is very unfortunate that we will lack such a leader as Beka Gorgadze. He is a huge force behind the team," coach Levan Maisashvili said.
"Young Tornike Jalagonia, who performed exceptionally well against Ireland, will prepare to start instead of him on Saturday. This game will be the perfect opportunity for him to grow.
"I am very happy to have Kote Mikautadze back in lineup, as he recovered from the injury picked against Wales. Overall, the team is well balanced."
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Semi Radradra (c), 12 Levani Botia 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 1 Peni Ravai, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 3 Mesake Doge, 4 Tevita Ratuva, 5 Temo Mayanavanu, 6 Johnny Dyer, 7 Mesulame Kunavula, 8 Albert Tuisue
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Samuela Tawake, 19 Chris Minimbi, 20 Manueli Ratuniyarawa, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Seru Vularika, 23 Waisea Nayacalevu
Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (capt), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 4 Lasha Jaiani, 5 Kote Mikautadze, 6 Otar Giorgadze, 7 Beka Saghinadze, 8 Tornike Jalaghonia.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Grigol Kerdikoshvili,20 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Demur Tapladze, 23 Davit Niniashvili