Gregor Townsend has warned his Scotland side to be on their guard for Georgia’s attempts to wreck their World Cup send-off.
Having beaten France at home and then thumped the Georgians in Tbilisi last week, Townsend is desperate to keep the Scots’ momentum building ahead of their tournament opener with Ireland on September 22.
But even though his side were good enough to run in five tries at the Dinamo Arena six days ago, the head coach is worried about them suffering an upset that could spark a crisis of confidence at the worst possible moment.
He said: “Today as coaches we said a couple of brief things about Georgia. I told the players that we can’t take this game lightly. We put a lot of hard work into last week’s performance, analysed the opposition and focused on what we needed to do to win away from home.
“But it’s not going to come out this time if we’re complacent in any way.
“Less than two years ago Georgia played at the Principality against Wales and lost by seven points. The last five minutes of that game the Welsh were on their line, defending hard, got a yellow card, gave away multiple penalties and they went down to uncontested scrums.
“So Georgia will do all they can to produce a historic result for them, and they have the players and the power to upset any team in the world.”
Last week’s 44-10 defeat was not how Georgia would have hoped to mark the first ever visit of a Tier One nation to the Caucasus.
But Townsend said: “I expect an improved performance this time. I think what you’ve seen from probably every team that’s played in the World Cup warm-up matches, that the first game they haven’t been totally at speed with where they want to be.
“So I’m sure Georgia will be better for that experience of playing one game. They’ll know the opposition better.
“What we’ve seen from them prior to that game and within that game is they have some very powerful ball-carriers. They have an excellent set piece and some good backline players, so we’re expecting a real tough game.”
Townsend has wrapped up a string of his big name players in cotton wool as he looks to protect the likes of skipper Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown, John Barclay, Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg from the risk of injury.
And he admits he has already got a provisional XV in mind for facing Joe Schmidt’s men in Yokohama.
“I suppose I’m reasonably close,” he said. “We’ve seen through training and through games, and what the players have done previously for Scotland, on what would look like a strong 15, a strong 23 for Ireland.
“But there are positions that are still very competitive. There are blends that we’re still looking at, that might suit a team like Ireland but maybe not suit a team like (fellow Group A rivals) Samoa or Russia or Japan. So selection hasn’t been decided, but certainly a lot of players have put their hands up to be in that game.”
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