The Tbilisi Cup commences this Saturday, 14 June in the Georgian capital as Spain, Emerging Italy, Argentina Jaguars and Georgia battle it out in the round-robin competition.
By Andrew Hogan, Tbilisi
The Tbilisi Cup, part of the IRB’s ongoing commitment to increase the competition schedule for Tier Two nations, will be played across three match days (14, 18 and 22 June) and will kick-off on Saturday evening at 17.00 local time when European Nations Cup Division 1A rivals Georgia meet Spain at Avchala Stadium. Georgia and Spain last met in ENC Division 1A in Madrid in March and Georgia came out on top, 24-17.
Funded by the International Rugby Board, the Tbilisi Cup plays an important high-performance role for participating nations and for the ongoing growth of Rugby in Georgia. This is the second year the competition has been staged after the success of last year's inaugural competition which saw South Africa President's XV take the spoils.
Georgia coach Milton Haig is looking forward to the opportunity to blood some new players as he continues preparations ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup. “We are missing a few frontline players but this is a chance for us to grow our side and create more depth,” said the Kiwi.
“There is still plenty of experience in our squad this year and the team understands our expectations. It is important we get off to a good start against Spain on Saturday in what will be a tough first game."
For Spain coach Santiago Santos the tournament is also vital in terms of squad development. "Our focus now is building for the World Cup in 2019. It is a pleasure to be here and competing against Georgia, Italy and Argentina. The players will give it their all."
Pablo Feijoo, scrum half and captain of the Spanish squad, knows that his side will have their work cut out in their opening match against the host team. "It is a really tough game to start off with, we are here to build a team in the lead up to the World Cup in 2019, which we are targeting after failing to qualify for next year’s tournament in England.
“We have a young, inexperienced side but we will be courageous, confident and fight against Georgia. We know it will be a tough game but we are here to develop our rugby and improve as well."
Georgia: Beka Tsiklauri; Tamaz Mchedlidze, Davit Kacharava, Rezo Gigauri, Alexander Todua; Lasha Malaguradze, Giorgi Begadze; Zurab Zhvania, Shalva Mamukashvili, Davit Kubriashvili, Giorgi Nemsadze, Kote Mikautadze, Shalva Sutiashili ©, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Dimitri Basilaia.
Replacements: Simon Maisuradze, Giorgi Mchedlishvili, Lasha Lomidze, Givi Berishvili, Giorgi Rokhvadze, Lasha Khmaladze, Murazi Giorgadze
Spain: Javier Carrion; Alberto Diaz, Ignacio Gutierrez Muller, Daniel Snee, Segio Fernanadez; Mariano Garcia, Facundo Munilla; Francisco Javier Sanz;, Juan Anaya, Jesus Moreno, Alejandro Blanco, Victor Sanchez, Manuel Mora, Adam Newton, Jaime Nava ©
Replacements: Gabriel Agustin Ortiz, Romain Asensi, Guillermo Espinos, Jose Luis Del Valle, Francisco Coplet, Alejandro Gutierrez Muller, Pablo Fontes
Emerging Italy and Argentina Jaguars will battle it out in the second match in what is sure to be a fiercely contested fixture. The Italians claimed a 26-6 win in the last outing between the two countries at IRB Nations Cup 2013 in Bucharest, so the Jaguars will be out for revenge.
Emerging Italy inside centre and captain Tommaso Castello is part of a very youthful Tbilisi Cup squad. "We are well motivated by this tournament and want to do well,” Castello said. “It will be a difficult and physical first game against the Jaguars, they are an aggressive team so it is important we impose our game and physicality on the contest."
The Italians will be coached by Andrea Cavinato, who explained that his squad is made up of domestic players with the majority under the age of 23. "We are looking long term with this player group to see who might be able to compete in 2019 or perhaps next year in England. We will try to play our rugby and play well.
Bernado Urdaneta, coach of Argentina Jaguars, has challenged his squad to grow as a group throughout the tournament. "It is an opportunity for our players to show what they can do on an international level, so it is a good competition to develop the team and do our best in each game,” he said.
Argentina Jaguars: Gonzalo Guitierrez Taboada; Facundo Barrea, Ignacio Brex, Juan Pablo Socino, Ramiro Moyano; Sebastian Poet, Marcos Bollini; Santiago Garcia Botta, Tomas Baravalle, Damian Arias, Martin Chappesoni, Lucas Ponce, Lucas Maguire, Facundo Isa, Lisandro Ahaulli ©
Replacements: Nahuel Lobo, Facundo Bosch, Gaston Cortes, Franco Baldoni, Lautaro Casado, Felipe Ezcurra, Matias Masera
Emerging Italy: David Michael Odiete; Simone Ragusi, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello ©; Michele Visentin; Edoardo Padovani, James Ambrosini; Andrea Lovotti, Ornel Gega, Lorenzo Romano, Matteo Ferro, Filippo Gerosa, Nicola Belardo, Emiliano Caffini, Gabriele Cicchinelli
Replacements: Giovanni Scalvi, Luca Scarsini, Jacopo Sarto, Maxime Mbanda', Marcello Violi, Enrico Bacchin, Alex Morsellino
IRB Tbilisi Cup 2014 Fixtures (all times are local)
Saturday, 14 June 17:00 - Georgia v Spain
19:00, Emerging Italy v Argentina Jaguars
Wednesday, 18 June 17:00 - Georgia v Argentina Jaguars 19:00, Emerging Italy v Spain
Sunday, 22 June 17:00 - Georgia v Emerging Italy 19:00, Argentina Jaguars v Spain
Georgia: Zurab Zhvania; Kote Mikautadze; Giorgi Nemsadze; Givi Berishvili; Simon Maisuradze; Giorgi Tkhilaishvili; Lasha Malaguradze; Merab Sharikadze; Davit Kacharava; Rezo Gigauri; Beka Tsiklauri; Muraz Giorgadze; Alexander Todua; Giorgi Begadze; Giorgi Rokhvadze; Lasha Khmaladze; Shalva Mamukashvili; Dimitri Basilaia; Shalva Sutiashili ©; Beka Bitsadze; Tamaz Mtchedlidze; Giorgi Mtchedlishvili; Anton Peikrishvili; Dudu Kubriahvili; Lasha Lomidze; Irakli Qiasashvili
Spain: Juan Anaya; Romain Asensi; Francisco Blanco; Guillermo Espinos; Jesus Moreno; Gabriel Agustin Ortiz; Francisco Javier Sanz; Alejandro Blanco; Jose Luis Del Valle; Ignacio Duco Molina; Victor Sanchez; Javier De Juan; Manuel Mora; Adam Newton; Pablo Feijoo (c); Facundo Munilla; Mariano Garcia; Daniel Snee; Pablo Fontes; Francisco Coplet; Alberto Diaz; Jaime Nava; Javier Carrion; Segio Fernanadez; Alejandro Gutierrez Muller; Ignacio Gutierrez Muller
Argentina Jaguars: Santiago Garcia Botta; Javier Rojas; Juan Socino; Lucas Ponce; Matias Masera; Lisandro Ahaulli ©; Marcos Bollini; Martin Chappesoni; Gaston Cortes; Sebastian Poet; Juan Cappiello; Facundo Barrea; Nahuel Lobo; Gonzalo Guitierrez Taboada; Juan Ignacio Brex; Ramiro Moyano; Damian Arias; Facundo Bosch; Lautaro Casado; Dan Isaak; Facundo Isa; Felipe Ezcurra; Lucas Maguire; Tomas Baravalle; Franco Baldoni; Nicolas Proto
Emerging Italy: James Ambrosini; Michele Andreotti; Enrico Bacchin; Nicola Belardo; Rudy Biancotti; Giulio Bisegni; Tommaso Boni; Emiliano Caffini; Carlo Canna; Tommaso Castello ©; Gabriele Cicchinelli; Matteo Ferro; Ornel Gega; Filippo Gerosa; Andrea Lovotti; Maxime Mbanda; Alex Morsellino; David Michael Odiete; Edoardo Padovani; Simone Ragusi; Lorenzo Romano; Jacopo Sarto; Marcello Violi; Michele Visentin; Luca Scarsini; Giovanni Scalvi
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