Sept 13 (Reuters) - Factbox on the Georgia squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, where they will compete in Pool D:
World ranking: 12
Georgia will be appearing in a fifth successive Rugby World Cup and have steadily improved in the last few editions and won two of their four matches in 2015 to finish third in their pool and claim automatic qualification for Japan.
That livened the debate over whether they should be included in the Six Nations and certainly they have proven since they are the ‘best of the rest’ in Europe, though admittedly they have yet to topple a top-tier rugby nation.
Their 44-10 and 36-9 home and away losses to Scotland in recent weeks suggest there is much more work to do in that regard, and they will need to spring a major surprise if they are to escape from Pool D that includes Wales and Australia.
But they will certainly target wins over Fiji, who they beat 14-3 in Suva in 2016, and Uruguay to take third again and secure qualification for the 2023 tournament in France.
Most of their players are based in France, and the return of second row Mamuka Gorgodze, following his retirement in March 2017, for a fourth World Cup adds yet more experience to a squad that has 18 players who have featured at the global showpiece before.
Milton Haig (New Zealand)
New Zealander Milton Haig has been in charge of Georgia since 2011 and led the side to the Rugby Europe Championships trophy in seven of the last eight editions, only missing out in 2017 when they were beaten to the title by Romania.
Haig, 55, was briefly assistant coach at Super Rugby side the Waikato Chiefs in 2011, and also steered the Māori All Blacks and New Zealand Under-21 side before taking the reins of Georgia on the recommendation of compatriot Vern Cotter.
Number eight Beka Gorgadze will provide power from the back of the scrum and a strong running style that has seen him bag five tries in his 18 tests to date.
Gorgadze, 23, plays for Bordeaux in France’s Top 14 and started his international career in 2015 on the flank, but has won his last 12 caps in the number eight position.
Georgia will have to front up in the forwards if they are to stand a chance of toppling the more established teams in their Pool D and Gorgadze will be a key man on both attack and in the defensive line.
Captain: Merab Sharikadze
Forwards - Mikheil Nariashvili, Guram Gogichashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Vano Karkadze, Levan Chilachava, Giorgi Melikidze, Beka Gigashvili, Giorgi Nemsadze, Shalva Sutiashvili, Mamuka Gorgodze, Kote Mikautadze, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Lasha Lomidze, Otar Giorgadze, Beka Gorgadze, Beka Saghinadze
Backs - Sandro Todua, Soso Matiashvili, Mirian Modebadze, Zurab Dzneladze, Davit Katcharava, Merab Sharikadze, Tamaz Mtchedlidze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Lasha Malaghuradze, Lasha Khmaladze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Giorgi Begadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Gela Aprasidze.
W - 4, L - 12, D - 0
Last World Cup: Pool stage (2015)
Best finish: Pool stage (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)
Sept 23 Wales v Georgia Toyota
Sept 29 Georgia v Uruguay Kumagaya
Oct 3 Georgia v Fiji Osaka
Oct 11 Australia v Georgia Fukuroi
Feb 9 Romania 9-18 Georgia
Feb 17 Georgia 24-10 Spain
Mar 2 Belgium 6-46 Georgia
Mar 10 Georgia 52-3 Germany
Mar 17 Russia 6-22 Georgia
Aug 31 Scotland 36-9 Georgia (Compiled by Nick Said and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)