Georgia secure Europe 1 berth at RWC 2011

(RUGBYWORLDCUP.COM) Saturday 20 March 2010
Georgia secure Europe 1 berth at RWC 2011
Georgia and England will meet for the second time in a Rugby World Cup after their 2003 encounter

Georgia ran out convincing 36-8 winners over neighbours Russia to not only retain the European Nations Cup crown but also confirm themselves as the Europe 1 qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.

The two sides had already confirmed their places at Rugby's showpiece tournament at the end of February, but had to wait until today to learn who they would be playing in New Zealand.

Georgia can now look forward to an opening match against Scotland in Dunedin on 14 September 2011 before facing 2003 winners England, the Play-off winner and Argentina in Pool B.

Russia, as European Nations Cup runners up, qualify as Europe 2 to set up a mouth-watering encounter with USA in their first ever Rugby World Cup match with Australia, Ireland and Italy their other Pool C opponents.

The European Nations Cup title decider was played on neutral soil in north-east Turkey, but the thousands of Georgian fans who had travelled en mass ensured the 6,000-seater Akçabaat Fatih Stadium was awash with red and white flags.

Georgia, roared on by their passionate support, overwhelmed their neighbours in a five-try performance to end the European Nations Cup with 27 points, two more than Russia, having only lost one match across the two-year competition.

Russia had scored the opening try to lead 5-3, but tries from prop Davit Zirakishvili, hooker Irakli Natriashvili, flanker Giorgi Chkhaidze and number 8 Besarion Udesiani along with a penalty try saw Georgia to victory.

Romania stay on track

This was just one matter to settle on a key weekend in the European Nations Cup, with Portugal and Romania meeting in Lisbon to keep their RWC 2011 dreams alive and Germany hosting Spain with relegation to Division 2A at stake.

Portugal went into their encounter with Romania at the Estadio Universitario de Lisboa with a three-point advantage in the standings, knowing that anything but defeat would guarantee third and end their visitors RWC dreams.

However, Romania were on a high after handing Georgia a first defeat last weekend and ultimately ran out 20-9 winners in Lisbon to ensure hopes of maintaining their ever present record on the Rugby World Cup stage live on.

Portugal do still sit third in the European Nations Cup standings with 21 points, one more than their conquerors, but only for another seven days until Romania play their rearranged match with Spain in Bucharest.

Even defeat for Romania will ensure they finish level on points with Portugal and take third place by virtue of having secured their win in the head-to-head between the two rivals by a greater margin - 11 points to Portugal's one in Bucharest last year.

By finishing third, Romania now await the winner of the Lithuania and Ukraine encounter for a home and away play-off to determine Europe's representative in the cross-continental play-off. The European side will face Tunisia for the right to meet Uruguay or the HSBC Asian Five Nations runner-up to decide the 20th and final qualifier for RWC 2011.

In the weekend's other match in the top tier, Spain ran out 21-17 winners over Germany in Heidelberg to condemn their hosts to an immediate return to Division 2A following a winless campaign, with Ukraine taking their place next season.

Centre Martín Heredia scored two tries at the Fritz-Grunebaum-Sportpark, but Spain needed a last minute try by prop David Gurgenadze to deny Germany a first win after they had bravely fought back from 14-3 down with scores from Benjamin Krause and Clemens von Grumbkov.