Lelos Coach Haig Will Lead “Best-Ever Prepared” Georgia to World Cup

As the Tbilisi Cup concluded on June 21, won very convincingly by Emerging Ireland, Georgian head coach Milton Haig claimed the tournament had helped him to finalize his provisional squad for the autumn’s World Cup.

“We were missing about 90% of our first fifteen so this tournament was always about players competing to get in the World Cup squad,” said Haig whose side defeated Uruguay in their opening match before losing to Emerging Italy and Emerging Ireland.

The New Zealander did not dwell for long on the performance against the Irish which ended in a 45-12 defeat, admitting that Georgia lacked their opponents’ strength in depth. However, he also noted that Georgia was improving in that regard.

“In previous world cups, I think there may have been times when, in terms of the squad, some players were just making up the numbers. That’s certainly not the case now,” added Haig.

An early try by number eight Lasha Lomidze had given the Georgians an excellent start on a warm but windy evening in Avchala, but the Irish responded in merciless fashion with six tries of their own including two for the impressive wing Matt Healy.

Lomidze’s hopes of making the World Cup squad were dealt a blow when he was forced off with an injury towards the end of the first-half and Haig added that he was among two or three injury doubts for the autumn.

The Georgian head coach then outlined an intense preparatory schedule for what will start as a provisional 39-man squad before being cut to 31 for the tournament which begins on September 18.

Several weeks of fitness-heavy training will include a camp in Holland before the Lelos fly to the UK for warm-up matches with Newcastle Falcons (Aug 28), Canada (Sept 3) and Japan (Sept 5).

“The target has always been to get two wins and hopefully we can do that. What I will say is that this will be the best-ever prepared Georgian side at a World Cup,” claimed Haig.

Georgia’s first match at the World Cup is against Tonga on September 19 in Gloucester.

Alastair Watt

25 June 2015 22:57