Scotland v Georgia: What you need to know about the Georgians

Georgia
Georgia were beaten twice by Scotland in last year's Rugby World Cup warm-up matches
Warm-up international: Scotland v Georgia
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium Date: Friday, 23 October Kick-off: 19:30 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Sport website, live text updates on BBC Sport website & app

Georgia have a hefty and raucous following, a monstrous pack, buckets of titles in Europe's second-tier competition and the billions of a former prime minister behind them.

And on Friday, the emerging force in global rugby face Scotland in the first game of Gregor Townsend's side intense autumn schedule.

In 17 years, they have played just nine times against top-tier opposition outside of the World Cup. This crack at Scotland, and their participation in the Autumn Nations Cup, are opportunities they lust after.

So, what do you need to know about the Georgians?

There was recently a shooting in their offices

Yes, you read that right. The Georgian union's vice president, Merab Beselia, was arrested last month over the shooting of a player.

Former sevens captain Ramaz Kharazishvili was shot in the leg at the governing body's offices in Tbilisi. Thankfully, his injuries were not life-threatening.

Local media reported that it followed a dispute between the two men. Georgian police launched an investigation into the illegal purchase, possession and carrying of a firearm and damage to health.

Quite the prelude to an international tour.

They are bankrolled by a billionaire

Former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has provided much of the finance needed to fuel the rise of Georgian rugby.

Forbes put his net worth at £4.062bn - a mere £1.47bn more than US President Donald Trump. He lives in a futuristic £41m house cut into the hills overlooking Tbilisi, where he reportedly keeps an art collection that includes at least one Picasso, a shark tank, and an assortment of exotic animals.

Milton Haig, the Georgia head coach of seven years who stepped down after the 2019 World Cup, says Ivanishvili is not a rugby fanatic but sees in the sport an opportunity to inspire and showcase his nation's people.

His investment has helped construct a high-performance base in Tbilisi that rivals the facilities on offer to any of the game's behemoths. The Georgians have access to a 27-room hotel, a commercial kitchen, swimming pool, gym, floodlit artificial pitch and a 14x14m wrestling dojo.

Georgia have attracted raucous crowds to their matches
Georgia have attracted raucous crowds to their matches

There was an anthem faux pas on their last visit

When Georgia last visited Murrayfield, in a warm-up Test for the World Cup last September, Scottish officials inadvertently piped out the wrong national anthem.

The tune they played apparently dated back to the Soviet era, and was something of an ode to Georgia-born Josef Stalin.

The looks on Georgian faces as the camera panned along the line ranged from stony to smouldering.

Fortunately, the mishap was quickly rectified by way of an official apology from Scottish Rugby, who played the correct anthem to welcome the Georgians into the post-match function.

Georgia are ranked above Italy

The World Rugby rankings formula is a vexing beast, but are about the only objective measure available.

Georgia have been relentlessly successful against their second-tier opposition and have beaten Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Canada and United States since the 2015 World Cup.

Despite a frustrating 2019 tournament - losing to Wales, Fiji and Australia and beating Uruguay - Georgia sit 12th in the rankings, two places above Italy, who have been relentlessly awful in the Six Nations.

Georgia's under-20 team also put Scotland away at last year's Junior World Championship, but in the senior World Cup warm-up fixtures, the Scots were comfortable victors home and away.

But they have hit a rugby 'ceiling'

For years, Georgia have been clamouring for a spot in an expanded Six Nations, a franchise in the Pro14, or at the very least, more regular cracks at Tier One opponents.

The Covid-19 pandemic - and Japan's reluctance to participate in the new Autumn Nations Cup - has opened up a precious spot at the top table, but for how long?

Of Georgia's 37-man squad, 21 play in England or France. Before the World Cup, former coach Haig's "huge worry" was that his players could only improve so much while they continue to reign supreme in the second-tier championship, a tournament they have won in eight of the past nine years.

"If I can't get more Tier One Tests, I need to get my players into better competitions," he said. "We've got players in the Top 14 in France and that's OK, but we need to get more players playing at a higher level more consistently, so they understand how to deliver week in, week out, and to increase skillsets.

"You get to a ceiling and, until you can break through it, it's pretty hard to keep improving."

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