Graham Rowntree, who was Georgia’s forwards coach at last year’s World Cup, has warned England to ignore the recent loss to Scotland and be prepared to face a torrid battle against “huge men” at Twickenham on Saturday.
Georgia were beaten 48-7 by Scotland last month and now face an Autumn Nations Cup group containing England, Wales and Ireland which should be a chance to put forward their case fo inclusion in the Six Nations.
Rowntree, now the Munster forwards coach, believes the extra training camps since the Scotland match will ensure the Georgians are able to prove why they are revered as some of the strongest scrummagers in World rugby. There are a staggering 34 front row forwards from Georgia operating in the top two leagues in France – Top 14 and Pro 2- with 15 contracted to the best teams in French rugby and another 19 playing one level down
Rowntree, the former Leicester, England and Lions prop was part of the England management group and an assistant coach on the 2009, 2013 and 2017 Lions Tours but working with Georgia was a real eye opener. Rowntree packed down against 16 different rugby nations in a playing career that brought him 54 England caps and three Lions test appearances, said: “ “I have worked with some great packs and they are right up there. There is a rightful perception that they love a scrum and they are huge men They are naturally strong and I remember a training camp at Montpellier where the gym ran out of weights for them..
“It was also the first time I had seen guys doing the plank in the gym with a 130kg team mate sat on their back! Their strength is ridiculous and they can all wrestle which means everyone from a 130kg prop to the 70kg kit man can all take you down very easily. They are quick learners and also know how to get themselves out of tricky situations with their strength. When I travelled around France meeting our players with Milton Haig, the head coach, there were so many Georgians in academies in the top two leagues and the guys are like monsters. The French clubs have cupboards full of props from Georgia.
“England are one of the best scrums and they are finding young guys which is really encouraging. In the set piece, Georgia will at times, make it difficult for England and there will be moments when they have a go at England because they are a very proud and passionate nation. “
Unfortunately for Georgia, some key forwards are injured and the squad is in transition after post-World Cup retirements while experienced lock Kote Mikautadze, who recently signed a 3-month contract with Bayonne, will not be added to the Lelos squad until after the England game.
Georgia won all four of their Six Nations B games earlier this year against Romania, Spain, Belgium and Portgual having lost to Wales( 43-14), Australia (27-8), Fiji (45-10) at the 2019 World Cup with one win over Uruguay (33-7). Eddie Jones, the England head coach, is even considering playing nine forwards on Saturday at Twickenham to help negate a Georgian pack that initiated a brawl when the two countries trained against each other in Oxford last year.
Rowntree added: “Georgia may have to defend multiple phases against England and upwards of 30 rucks and they won’t know how much they can pull the opposition into a set piece game. It is tough pool but Georgia will be better than they showed against Scotland and England will feel their power at moments during the game. “