5 talking points as Wales face Georgia in final World Cup pool match

Wales need one point to guarantee top spot in Pool C.

Andrew Baldock
Friday 06 October 2023 09:00 BST
Wales conclude their World Cup pool campaign against Georgia in Nantes (Joe Giddens/PA)
Wales conclude their World Cup pool campaign against Georgia in Nantes (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Archive)

Wales play their final Rugby World Cup pool game when they tackle Georgia in Nantes on Saturday.

Warren Gatland’s team booked a quarter-final place by beating Australia in record-breaking fashion last time out and they require one point to finish top of the group.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points heading into the game at Stade de la Beaujoire.

Wales in charge of World Cup pool

Wales’ World Cup form has proved a far cry from the misery of last season’s Six Nations, when they only avoided the wooden spoon by beating Italy in Rome. There were doubts whether Wales even would progress from a pool that also included Australia, Fiji and Georgia, but three-successive wins, a quarter-final place secured one game inside the distance and only one point now required to top the group highlight how dominant Gatland’s team have been. Given their struggles of earlier in the year, few could have expected such an impressive revival.

Quarter-final opponents to be decided

While Wales got the job done early in terms of progressing from their group, a race for runners-up spot in Pool D will come down to an eliminator between Argentina and Japan on Sunday. The Pumas have proved underwhelming so far, losing comprehensively to 14-man England, before edging out Samoa and then providing only glimpses of form when they eased past minnows Chile. Across their three games, Japan have looked more impressive, setting up an intriguing encounter in Nantes for the likely right to face Gatland’s team at Stade Velodrome, Marseille next week. Wales’ World Cup record against Argentina and Japan is strong – played five, won five.

Warren Gatland has weaved his magic

When Gatland returned for a second stint as Wales head coach at the start of 2023 – his first was laden with Six Nations titles, Grand Slams and World Cup consistency – he took charge at a time when results had dropped through the floor and confidence plummeted. The Six Nations played out against a back-drop of financial concerns in Welsh professional rugby and contractual worries for players, with strike action only averted just days before Wales met England in Cardiff. But after an uninterrupted World Cup preparation period that started in late May, Gatland has moulded a squad seemingly on course for a third semi-final appearance during the last four global tournaments, underlining his status among the game’s finest coaches of any era.

Gareth Anscombe at the controls

There would have been a collective holding of breath by Wales supporters when Dan Biggar went off injured after just 12 minutes during a record 40-6 victory over Australia in Lyon. A pectoral muscle strain forced the fly-half’s early exit, but Wales were in safe hands as Gareth Anscombe replaced him and equalled Biggar’s best of 23 points for Wales in one World Cup game, booting a drop-goal, conversion and six penalties. It was a wonderfully-assured display by Anscombe, who retains his place against Georgia, while Biggar recovers and remains on course to be available for the quarter-finals.

Wales mindful of Georgia threat

Wales know from painful experience exactly what Georgia are capable of. It was less than a year ago that Wales endured a calamity in Cardiff, losing 13-12 at the Principality Stadium as Georgia’s shock victory effectively signalled the end of Wayne Pivac’s coaching reign. It was an abject display, even allowing for Georgia’s impressive second-half performance when their forwards took charge and pummelled Wales into submission. Four of that starting XV will be in the line-up on Saturday – Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Tomos Williams and Gareth Thomas – and while a repeat result looks highly unlikely, Wales know they must be on their guard.

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