Georgia issue challenge to Wales after Six Nations wooden spoon

Georgia secured their seventh consecutive Rugby Europe championship last week

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 22 March 2024 10:14 GMT
Georgia have invited Wales to play a fixture in Tblisi in the autumn
Georgia have invited Wales to play a fixture in Tblisi in the autumn (Getty Images)

Georgia have laid down the gauntlet to Wales after their Six Nations wooden spoon by challenging Warren Gatland’s side to a fixture in Tblisi in the autumn.

Wales finished bottom of the Six Nations table for the first time since 2003 after a winless campaign that ended with defeat to Italy in Cardiff.

The Lelos, conversely, enjoyed another productive Rugby Europe campaign, winning their seventh consecutive championship in the second-tier competition and 13th crown in the last 14 years.

It has again raised the debate of whether the team that finishes bottom in the Six Nations should face the Rugby Europe champion in a play-off to determine who features in next year’s marquee championship.

While any system of promotion and relegation is unlikely, the Georgian Rugby Union (GRU) have nonetheless invited Wales to come to their capital and take their side on.

“It’s my great pleasure to invite our dear friends from Wales to play Georgia in Tbilisi this autumn,” said Ioseb Tkemaladze, president of the GRU. “After a thrilling Six Nations and Georgia’s seventh success in a row in the Rugby Europe Championship, it’s the fixture rugby fans everywhere are crying out for so I really hope the Welsh can take up our invitation.

“Of course we’d be equally happy to play them in Cardiff – where we won a famous victory in 2022. There is a strong connection between our two proud rugby nations, and we have had some exciting contests recently. We are rugby brothers.”

Georgia are now coached by former England hooker Richard Cockerill and thrashed Portugal in the Rugby Europe final in Paris last weekend.

Georgia were beaten by Wales during last year’s Rugby World Cup (Getty Images)

While their last trip to Cardiff resulted in a narrow victory over a side then coached by Wayne Pivac, Georgia were comfortably beaten by Wales during the World Cup in Nantes.

The idea of a play-off is nonetheless supported by former Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, who had previously advocated for a fixture during Italy’s long spell as Six Nations wooden spooners

“I was asked the other day whether I still hold the same view about relegation from the Six Nations now that Italy are doing so much better and Wales are not — and I do,” Warburton said in his column for The Times.

“I do not think any home nation has a God-given right to have the cash cow of the Six Nations without any jeopardy. Maybe Wales have become complacent with their business model simply because they know they are going to be in the Six Nations for ever. If they knew there was the threat of relegation, maybe they would be more conscientious in ensuring that all aspects of their operation are spot on.

“If Wales had to play Georgia in a play-off this summer, that would be brilliant. I know it won’t ever happen, and maybe I am looking at this as a fan rather than a businessman, but I stick by my contention that there should be a play-off every year.”

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