KUMAGAYA, Japan (Reuters) - While Uruguay bask in the unexpected glory of their stunning Rugby World Cup Pool D success over Fiji, their next goal is to overcome Georgia in Kumagaya on Saturday and potentially secure automatic qualification for the 2023 finals in France.
The South Americans produced the first shock of the World Cup with a 30-27 victory over Fiji on Wednesday, and now face a quick turnaround of just four days before they meet the physical Georgians, who lost their opener 47-22 to Wales.
Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses has largely kept faith with the players who secured their famous win, but made two changes in the forward pack as tight-head prop Juan Pedro Rombys is selected ahead of Diego Arbelo, and Manuel Diana makes way for Alejandro Nieto in the number eight position.
“We have things we need to improve on, such as our defensive scrum and not to miss so many tackles,” Meneses told reporters on Friday.
“The real objective (at the World Cup) is the performance. It always has been. Of course, winning as a result of applying what is trained helps make that goal credible.”
Uruguay now have an unexpected carrot being dangled in front of them with the tantalising prospect of third place in their pool.
Centre Juan Manuel Cat admits the fixture with Georgia is now like a final, but is also a step closer to meeting two Tier 1 heavyweights in Australia and Wales.
“The World Cup does not end with Georgia, but it is an important game and we are going to play like a final,” Cat said.
“But there are two more games and they are not rivals against which we usually play.
“Some of us have never played against Tier 1 teams before, so what we need to do in this game is maintain our level and, if possible, improve on it.”
In contrast to Uruguay, Georgia have made 12 changes to their starting XV, with only lock Konstantine Mikautadze, fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze and centre Giorgi Kveseladze retained.
“It’s a tough schedule for us to play three games in 10 days. We have to rotate some of the players,” assistant coach Levan Maisashvili said.
“Some players played big minutes and we have to give them a rest. We have 31 players (in the squad) and all of them are waiting for their opportunity.
“Uruguay showed us that they will fight for everything. We will try to be dominant in every part of the field, whether it’s scrum, or lineouts or the backs.
“Uruguay are a team who can play with heart, as well as us, so I think it will be a good game.”
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge