By Andrew Hogan in Tbilisi
The newly-established Tbilisi Cup, which gets underway on Friday evening, is part of the IRB’s ongoing strategy of increasing the competition schedule for Tier Two nations.
The host nation, Georgia, will be going head to head with fellow Rugby World Cup 2015 hopefuls, Uruguay, as well as Emerging Ireland and a South Africa President’s XV.
Uruguay and the South Africa President’s XV kick-off round one of the tournament at 17.00 local time, at Avchala Stadium.
Coaches and captains from the four competing nations assembled on Wednesday afternoon for the pre-tournament press conference and photo-call to increase the sense of anticipation around the Georgian capital.
South Africa President’s XV coach, Jimmy Stonehouse, cannot wait for the action to get underway. He said: “It is very important we start well tomorrow night. They (Uruguay) will be very physical and we will have to be prepared for that confrontation. Uruguay are looking to qualify for the next Rugby World Cup so they are going to look to put in strong performances throughout this tournament.”
Uruguay coach Pablo Lemoine is confident the side he has brought over will give a good account of themselves. He said “Unfortunately we were unable to bring the strongest squad available as we have suffered with quite a few injuries. However, we have talent in this squad with some strong characters. The challenge for the younger players is to prove they can compete at this level.”
The hosts will then take on Emerging Ireland at 19.00 in what is sure to be a fiercely contested fixture.
Georgia coach, the New Zealander Milton Haig is expecting a very competitive tournament. “The competition has four very good teams participating and there will be no easy matches, especially with the short turnarounds between games, which adds another challenge to the players and coaches.
“Our squad has a good blend of youth and experience and the tournament will give all of the players a chance to showcase their skills in front of the selectors.”
Emerging Ireland have named a squad full of future talent. Coach Allen Clarke said: “We are using this tournament to blood a lot of young players. The Tbilisi Cup for us is about experience and exposure. The majority of this squad will have their eye on Rugby World Cup 2015 and 2019. “
Uruguay and the South Africa President’s XV have both announced their teams for tomorrow night’s round one clash.
Arturo Avalo will captain the South American side from the front row with Agustin Del Castillo and Alejo Duran forming the half back combination.
South Africa President’s XV will be led out by Brendon Snyman, who will form a second row partnership with the appropriately named Giant Mtyanda. Jaco Bouwer, Uzair Cassiem and Renaldo Bothma make up the back of the scrum.
The Georgians will be captained by winger, Irakli Machkhaneli when they take on Emerging Ireland. The hosts will be strong up front with Irakli Mirtskhulava, Revaz Belkania and Levan Chilachava looking to set a solid platform for the backline to play off.
Emerging Ireland include winger Niall Morris, who recently won the Aviva Premiership title in England with Leicester Tigers, and will be captained by Rhys Ruddock – son of Wales Grand Slam-winning coach Mike - at flanker.
15. Jeronimo Etcheverry; 14. Pablo Bueno; 13. Joaquin Prada; 12. Alberto Roman; 11. Leandro Leivas; 10. Agustin Del Castillo; 9. Alejo Duran; 1. Rodolfo De Mula; 2. Arturo Avalo (Captain); 3. Mario Sagario; 4. Rodrigo Espiga; 5. Franco Lamanna; 6. Juan De Freitas; 7. Fernando Bascou; 8. Juan Gaminara
Replacements: 16. Nicolas Klappenbach; 17. Alejo Corral; 18. Gaston Ibarburu; 19. Jose Coronel; 20. Juan Tasistro; 21. German Albanell; 22. Santiago Core
South Africa President’s XV Team
15. Jacquin Jansen; 14. Wilmaure Louw; 13. Stefan Watermeyer; 12. Adriaan Engelbrecht; 11. Jerome Pretorius; 10. Ricardo Croy; 9. Sinovuyo Nyoka; 1. Khwezilokusa Mkhafu; 2. Ashton Constant; 3. Martin Dreyer; 4. Brendon Snyman (Captain); 5. Giant Mtyanda; 6. Jaco Bouwel; 7. Uzair Cassiem; 8. Renaldo Bothma;
Replacements: 16: Frank Hern; 17. Ivann Espay; 18. Eduan van der Walt; 19. Brian Shabangu; 20. Kebe Ntando; 21. Rosko Speckman; 22. Coenraad van Wyk
15. Beka Tsiklauri; 14. Irakli Machkhaneli (Captain); 13. Davit Kaaharava; 12. Merab Sharikadze; 11. Tamaz Mchedlidze; 10. Lasha Malaguradze; 9. Giorgi Begadze; 1. Irakli Mirtskhulava; 2. Revaz Belkania; 3. Levan Chilachava; 4. Vakhtang Maisuradze; 5. Kote Mikautadze; 6. Shalva SSutiashvili; 7. Viktor Kolelishvili; 8. Giorgi Ckhaidze
Replacements: 16. Giorgi Tetrashvili; 17. Simon Maisuradze; 18. Giorgi Nemsadze; 19. Givi Berishvili; 20. Vazha Khutsishvili; 21. Todua Aleksandre; 22. Tedore Zibzibadze
Emerging Ireland Team
15. David Kearney; 14. Niall Morris; 13. Eoin Griffin; 12. Michael Allen; 11. Tiernan O’Halloran; 10. Ian Keatley; 9. Michael Heaney; 1. Jack McGrath; 2. Robert Herring; 3. Michael Bent; 4. Lewis Stevenson; 5. David Foley; 6. Rhys Ruddock (Captain); 7. Dominic Ryan; 8. Robbie Diack
Replacements: 16. Niall Annett; 17. Richard Lutton; 18. Ian Nagle; 19. Jordi Murphy; 20. John Cooney; 21. Noel Reid; 22. Brendan Macken