Ian Smith will take a closer interest than most when Georgia bring their particular brand of rugby to Kingsholm for two matches at next year’s World Cup.
The rugby minnows booked their place in Pool C at the game’s top table with a 22-9 win over long-time rivals Romania and will feature in the same World Cup group as New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and an as yet unknown team from Africa.
They play Tonga and Argentina at Kingsholm on September 19 and 25 and Smith, the former Gloucester captain and Cheltenham head coach, says that the Georgians will take no prisoners when they play on the game’s biggest stage.
Smith, who played for Scotland in the 1995 World Cup, spent more than a year working with the national rugby academy in Georgia alongside former Gloucester team-mate Don Caskie following the 2011 World Cup. Four of the players who were in his charge have since progressed to the senior squad and Smith said: “They are very physical, you get what it says on the tin.
“They are very abrasive and full on – they’re big and strong and like a bit of contact. The challenge for them is the bigger teams know what to expect when they play them.
“It’s okay when they play the likes of Spain and Canada but the top teams know how to handle them.
“When we were out in Georgia we were trying to develop their game and get a bit of width to their play.”
Georgia have played in the last three World Cups, winning two of their 12 matches and they need to win two pool games next year to gain automatic entry into the 2019 tournament.
Smith believes that may prove beyond them but says: “They’ve been banging on the door for years. Quite a lot of their players play in other countries but what they need to do is improve the standard of their club rugby.
“They’ve been clamouring for years to get into the Amlin Challenge Cup but it just hasn’t happened.”
Smith has been working for the past month as a technical adviser to the Portugal Rugby Football Union.
They played in the 2007 World Cup but missed out on qualification for next year’s event.
Although he has yet to sign a contract Smith has been given a wide-ranging brief which covers all aspects of the game.
“The game is completely amateur out there,” said Smith. “The clubs are quite elite – doctors and dentists – there’s plenty to do.”
n Caskie took over as director of rugby at Dollar Academy, a school near Stirling, earlier this year.