Preview: Georgia v Tonga

Georgia continue their tour of the Pacific Islands with a clash against Tonga at the ANZ National Stadium in Suva on Saturday.

The team from Eastern Europe are well prepared for this clash after playing out an exciting 19-19 draw against Samoa at Apia Park last weekend.

Tonga on the other hand will want to get back to winning ways after going down 23-18 to Fiji in their opening clash of the Pacific Nations Cup last Saturday.

Georgia will finish off their tour with a clash against Fiji in Suva next weekend and they will be looking to go into that game unbeaten and full of confidence if they are able to come away with a victory against Tonga.

Flanker Shalva Sutiashvili will lead Georgia into battle in this encounter. He will be supported in the back row by Giorgi Tkhilaishvili and number eight Beka Bitsadze. Lasha Khmaladze will start at fly-half while Giorgi Begadze will combine with him at scrum-half.

Full-back Merab Kvirikashvili has a good boot on him and he is also an evasive runner who is able to beat his tackler on the outside. If Georgia are able to secure quick ball at the breakdown it will present Kvirikashvili with the opportunity to do damage off first phase ball.

For Tonga, veteran flanker Nili Latu will captain the team for the clash with Georgia on Saturday. Latiume Fosita and Apakuki Ma’afu will form the centre combination while Tevita Halaifonua will start at full-back.

Georgia are curently ranked 12th in while Tonga are in 13th position on the World Rugby Rankings.

Games between these two teams are usually close affairs with the record currently standing at two wins apiece from four previous meetings. The last time these two teams played each other, Georgia came away with the points after a hard fought 17-10 triumph at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

The largest winning margin between these two sides is seven points and if history is anything to go by, along with both teams' current form, this could go either way. Given Tonga's physicality at the breakdown and general Sevens flair they might however have enough to edge their opponents.

Players to watch:

For Georgia: Flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili put in a good performance against Samoa last weekend and he was rewarded for his efforts on defence and at the breakdown with a try during the game. He is a powerful ball carrier and he will be required to get his team over the advantage line

For Tonga: Scrum-half Sonatane Takulua is a valuable player to the Tongan cause. He has the ability to snipe and break the line and he can also kick for poles. Takulua contributed seven points against Fiji last weekend with a try which he converted.

Head-to-head: The battle of the flankers should be one of this game's highlights. The captains of each team will also be involved in an interesting tussle at the battle of the breakdown. Shalva Sutiashvili will look to secure his team quick ball on the ground and force the turnovers, however Nili Latu will be his direct opponent challenging him for the ball in the ruck. An interesting confrontation awaits.

Previous results:
2015: Georgia won 17-10 in Gloucester
2014: Tonga won 23-9 in Tbilisi
1999: Georgia won 28-27 in Tbilisi
1999: Tonga won 37-6 in Nuku Alofa

Prediction: Georgia put in a brave effort in holding Samoa to a draw last weekend and they will put in another good performance on Saturday but it will be in a losing effort. Tonga to win by three points. 

The teams:

Georgia: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Giorgi Begadze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 6 Shalva Sutiashvili (c), 5 Giorgi Nemsadze, 4 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 3 Anton Peikrishvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Zurab Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Mirtskhulashvili, 19 Nodar Cheishvili, 20 Lasha Lomidze, 21 Vazha Khutsishvili, 22 Lasha Malaghuradze, 23 Giorgi Pruidze

Tonga: 15 Tevita Halaifonua, 14 Otulea Katoa, 13 Apakuki Ma’afu, 12 Latiume Fosita, 11 Viliame  Iongi, 10 Kali Hala, 9  Tane Takulua, 8 Sione Tau, 7 Jack Ram, 6 Nili Latu (C), 5 Dan Faleafa, 4 Uili Kolo’ofa’I, 3 Sione Faletau, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Eddie Aholelei
Replacements:  16 Sosefo Sakalia, 17 Sione Angaelangi, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Opeti Fonua, 20 Steve  Mafi, 21 Wayne Ngaluafe, 22 Viliami  Hakalo, 23 Daniel Kilioni

Date: Saturday, June 18
Venue: ANZ National Stadium
Kick-off: 16:45 local (04:45 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Faa’vae Neru (Samoa)