Samoa travel to Georgia for the first time in only the second meeting between the two countries, the last being an emphatic 46-9 Manu victory at the 2003 World Cup.
GEORGIA vs SAMOA
Saturday, November 23, 12:30 GMT, Tbilisi
The Samoans have not had much to cheer about so far this November, losing several key players to injury and suffering the emotionally draining loss of their spiritual leader, Pita Fatialofa, in the lead up to the Irish test. They played well in spurts against the French Barbarians, but overall have not shown much in the way of inspiration. Georgia has had a mixed bag, beating the Canadians in a rough encounter, and suffering a narrow defeat to the Americans on a last second penalty goal.
The Lelos have made four changes to the team that lost in Rustavi, the most significant being the return of star winger Giorgi Shkinin, the former World Cup 2007 star who has played only four times in the past five years mostly due to injury. Tedo Zibzibadze slides to the bench to make room, bumping Lasha Malaguradze out of the match day squad. Giorgi Tkhilaishvili gets a run at openside in place of Shalva Sutiashvili, and young props Mikheil Nariashvili and Levan Chilachava are rotated in, with Zurab Zhvania filling in for unavailable Davit Khichagishvili as a reserve.
After choosing to field a reserve side against the Barbarians, Stephen Betham has recalled most of the team that played against Ireland, with five exceptions. James Johnston starts at tighthead in the absence of injured Logovi’i Mulipola, and Isaia Tu’ifua replaces suspended George Pisi. Ti’i Paulo, Piula Fa’asalele, and Faifili Levave are all given an opportunity to start after playing well in Le Havre. Tusi Pisi returns to play flyhalf after recovering from the head knock that kept him out of last week’s match.
The Georgians will, as usual, have a technical edge in the scrum, but the Samoans have selected a massive tight five to combat that which should even things up a little. The back row and three quarters favour Samoa, but Georgia has a clear advantage in the goal kicking department, which could be crucial. Expect this one to be much closer than their previous engagement, with the Manu finding just enough left in the tank to survive a scare and win by 5.
Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)
Assistants: Andrew McMenemy (SRU) & Vlad Iordachescu (FRR)