Georgia v Tonga match preview: Let battle for third place in Pool C commence
Tonga takes on Georgia in Gloucester in what is already being billed as the battle for third place in Pool C.
Mana Otai, former Tonga international and current head coach, has made six changes to his starting XV from their last warm-up match.
Experienced wing Telusa Veainu, who has played Super Rugby for the Rebels, comes in on the wing while veteran Vunga Lilo will play at full-back at Kingsholm.
Five of Tongas starting team, Elvis Taione, Tevita Mailau, Sitiveni Mafi, Sonatane Takulua and Telusa Veaninu, will also be making their World Cup bows.
Former Exeter Chiefs winger Fetu’u Vainikolo could make history in the game as he needs just one try to become Tonga’s leading Test try-scorer with 15.
Tonga comes into the match with confidence after completing their Rugby World Cup warm-up match preparations with a morale-boosting 21-16 victory over Romania at the Arch of Triumph National Rugby Stadium in Bucharest.
Meanwhile, Georgia has suffered three successive defeats in their warm-up preparations since arriving in England. As a result, head coach Milton Haig has opted to name the most experienced World Cup side in their history, boasting 617 Test Caps
However, simultaneously the Georgians will field the youngest player in Rugby World Cup history when scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze starts in today’s match against Tonga.
The 18-year-old is set to break the World Cup record held by American Thretton Palamo when he takes to the field on later today and failed to hide his excitement.
“Just a few years ago, I would not have imagined that I would play for the Georgian national team, let alone at a World Cup,” Lobzhanidze said.
“It is a dream come true; it’s a fantastic feeling.”
The battle at the breakdown will be key to who will ultimately come out with the victory. Georgia will have their work cut out for them, with Tongas superior World Cup knowledge maybe giving them the edge to get the win, although a draw is not out of the question.
Tonga by 3
Tonga: Lilo; Veainu, Helu, Pitau, Vainikolo; Morath, Takulua; Mailau, Taione, Aulika; Lokotui, Mafi; Kalamafoni, Latu, Ma’afu.
Replacements: Ngauamo, Taumalolo, Puafisi, Pole, Ram, Fisilau, Fosita, Piukala.
Georgia: Kvirikashvili; Mchedlidze, Kacharava, Sharikadze, Aptsiauri; Malaguradze, Lobzhanidze; Nariashvili, Bregvadze, Zirakashvili; Nemsadze, Mikautadze; Tkhilaishvili, Kolelishvili, Gorgodze.
Replacements: Mamukashvili, Asieshvili, Chilachava, Datunashvili, Sutiashvili, Begadze, Pruidze, Giorgadze
Kick off: 12:00
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)