NEWPORT, 28 Sept - Georgia's coach and players are relishing the opportunity to play against New Zealand on Friday in Cardiff, and are not afraid of taking on the world champions.
The team arrived at Celtic Manor in Newport on Saturday off the back of a disappointing 45-point defeat against Argentina. After a day off on Sunday, it was back to work on Monday to prepare for what is arguably the biggest ever spectacle in Georgian rugby history.
Coach Milton Haig, who hails from New Zealand, said the occasion was far from lost on the Georgians. But despite the likelihood of a few proverbial butterflies, his players were excited about the chance to battle the best rugby nation in the world.
"I'm sure there'll be a little bit of that (nervousness), but the occasion itself is pretty special for Georgia because it's the first time ever that we're playing New Zealand," Haig said.
"It's about making sure we capture that and use it to good effect, not get too overawed by it but use it to help us. We'll be playing at Millennium Stadium against the best team in the world, so there's a lot to look forward to and be excited about."
Haig said there was an extra spring in the step of his charges at training on Monday as they began preparations for their third match, following analysis of the hard-fought Argentina game that ran away from them early in the second half.
"We did our review of the Argentina game last night and also a bit of a preview on New Zealand. They've got attacking strengths all over the park so it's a matter of making sure we're nice and tight defensively, and that when we do get some attacking opportunities we're a bit better than we were against Argentina.
"We had some good ball against Argentina (pictured above) but we probably didn't use it as well as we could have. We lost a bit of our attacking structure."
Haig will no doubt have some insider knowledge to offer the Georgians, as he has nearly a decade of experience coaching for the New Zealand Rugby Union where he was involved with a number of national age-group teams.
"There's a number of boys in the team that I've coached in New Zealand, and I also know the coaches pretty well, so it's going to be a test coming up against some very good people who understand rugby very well.
"But my focus is on Georgia and making sure we get a good performance out of ourselves."
History in the making
Second-row Levan Chilachava said Friday’s match would be an historic occasion for all of them.
"We love having the chance to play against New Zealand, because you might only get a chance to play a match like this at a World Cup once in your career," he said.
"We are not intimidated, there is no inferiority complex or fear. But we are playing against some of the biggest stars in rugby, so we know it will be crucial to give our maximum effort out on the pitch."
Chilachava said training this week would focus in particular on scrummaging and line-outs, to avoid losing the ball in static situations against an unforgiving All Blacks side.
"We have to win as much ball as possible if we are going to be able to attack, especially at line-outs and in the scrum.
"A team like New Zealand is going to have a lot of the ball, so if we can avoid giving away the ball in those areas we will have more ability to attack and a better chance against them."