By Nick Mulvenney
FUKUROICITY, Japan (Reuters) – Georgia arrived at their fifth Rugby World Cup with a reputation as a physical side that revels in the tight stuff but does not have enough of a threat in attack to topple the top nations.
To their disappointment, they will depart Japan with that reputation little changed after a sole win over Uruguay and losses to Wales, Fiji and Australia.
Of the courage of the team there can be no doubt and the Lelos tackled themselves into the ground against the Wallabies on a wet night in Shizuoka on Friday.
Despite conceding 80 percent possession, they were only 17-8 down inside the last 10 minutes before conceding two late tries to round out their tournament 27-8 losers.
“It’s very unfortunate that we conceded two quick tries at the end. That has been the difference between very good teams and not so good teams,” captain Merab Sharikadze said.
“It was the difference between Australia and us because they play stronger teams all the time, and they executed what they wanted.
“But I’m still proud of what we’ve done and I hope we’ll do better in the future and have a more successful World Cup in France.”
With fourth place now their best possible finish in Pool D, the Georgians will have to qualify for the 2023 tournament in France.
The departure of New Zealander Milton Haig after eight years in charge also means that qualification will be the responsibility of another coach.
Mamuka “Gorgodzilla” Gorgodze, the flanker whose aggressive running and tackling epitomised the Georgian style, will also be gone after confirming his retirement from the international game at the age of 35.
Centre Sharikadze, 26, is no shirker in the tackling stakes himself but clearly believes Georgia must be more creative if they are to make the progress they want to.
“Hopefully in the future we can be more productive in attack as well,” he added.
“You can’t win the game unless you score more points. Yeah we had really good defence and I am proud of my team but we need to improve a lot.
“We have a young squad and hopefully for the next World Cup we will show a better performance.”
Haig suggested that even when teams like Georgia did produce great fighting performances at the World Cup, it was often put down to an off day for the top teams, like Australia.
“If (Australia) are going to take a slating from their media I think that’s definitely disrespectful to us,” Haig said.
“They are a very good side, they’ve got good set-piece now, their lineouts are very good, even their maul now they’ve developed that, and they’ve got a very good scrum.
“If you look at those components and their quality players and then you measure tier one against tier two, we played pretty well tonight.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)