Georgia could thwart Argentina


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Wellington: Georgia has become so popular among fans at the Rugby World Cup that even its Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri is coming to sample the atmosphere in its last match against Argentina.
While Georgia has no chance of reaching the quarterfinals, it can thwart Argentina's progress with an upset win in Palmerston North, depending on the outcome of pool B's other match between England and Scotland.
"The Georgian team have embraced the Rugby World Cup," Georgia coach Richie Dixon said. "We've fronted up to the matches and we've played in a way that demonstrates our respect for the tournament. We've also established a good rapport with the New Zealand public."
Argentina comprehensively beat Georgia 33-3 at the World Cup four years ago, where it went on to reach the semifinals.But under Dixon's guidance, Georgia is an improved side, beating Romania 25-9, narrowly losing to Scotland 15-6 and holding England 17-10 at half-time before eventually going down 41-10.
"We want to gain the respect of everybody we play against, and to be fair I think the team have done that," Dixon added. "We just need more exposure to these high-level games on a regular basis."
Argentina will be taking the threat from a physical Georgia side very seriously.
"We know most of their players, we know them quite well because we've already played them at the last World Cup," Argentina captain Felipe Contepomi said. "We know they are a very strong team, and it would be a big thing for them if they could get a win against us."
England has 14 points and is favourite to top the group, while Argentina and Scotland have 10 points apiece. At this stage, Scotland can advance with a big win over England, or relying on Georgia to beat the Pumas without conceding a bonus point.
Contepomi, who is recovering well from a rib injury earlier in the tournament, will have qualification and a personal record in mind. He needs to score 18 points to break Hugo Porta's Argentine record of 590 international points.
Team-mate Mario Ledesma, meanwhile, will play his 17th Rugby World Cup match, extending his record for Argentina and moving within one of the record for a hooker held by Raphael Ibanez of France.
Other records are also set to be broken at Arena Manawatu. Georgia has named its most experienced ever lineup for a World Cup match.