Tough job for Georgia's Caskie

(Rugby News Service) Friday 9 September 2011
Tough job for Georgia's Caskie
A Caskie pupil, Lasha Khmaladze (L), getting to grips against South Africa

QUEENSTOWN, 9 Sept. - Don Caskie won't say so but he has arguably one of the toughest jobs at Rugby World Cup 2011. He is the Georgian team's backs coach.

Georgia players are renowned as big, strong and physical forwards, at home in the tight exchanges, Caskie's brief is to marry those natural attributes with the sort of backs' skills to give their Pool B opponents sleepless nights, beginning with Scotland at Invercargill on 14 September.

A coaching graduate of Georgia's head coach Richie Dixon, Caskie started working with the Lelos in August 2010 after a stellar career playing centre for top-flight Gloucester in England and said it took him a "micro-second" to accept the challenge Dixon presented him.

He admits it has not been an entirely straightforward process but has always recognised the potentially rich reward of balancing Georgia's irresistible forward play with some outside subtlety. 

"From one to 15 they're very strong but we're used to playing a particular way," he said.

"It was just giving them the understanding that there was more than one way to skin a cat, (that) if we could use their strength and power in other ways then we would become a far more formidable side."

He says the Georgians are superb pupils and have made big strides in a short time in their effort to find a more complete game.

"They're like sponges," he said. "They have this ability to take things in and they're very keen to improve."

Despite the gradual evolution, Caskie insists that moving Georgia away from a fixed game plan of 10-man rugby has not been too tough an assignment, but has been an extremely rewarding one.

"You're actually coaching, you're helping them develop into a more balanced rugby side. For me it's far more fulfilling to do that to people who want to learn than to people who are already there and going over the same old things."

As a result of the coaching team's efforts to upgrade Georgia's all-field threat, combined with the fierce pride and determination of the players, he's confident that the Lelos can produce some unexpected rugby that will open a few eyes.

"We're not here just to make up the numbers," he warned.

RNS ct/gy