PREVIEW: Argentina v Georgia
INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: New Zealand-born Georgia coach Milton Haig fears a backlash from an Argentina team that has suffered five consecutive losses when they clash in a one-off Test on Saturday.
"We are expecting a difficult, physical match," said the handler of the nation ranked 12th in the world, three places below the South Americans, ahead of the San Salvador de Jujuy showdown.
"Argentina are hurting having lost twice at home to England this month after three defeats in Europe last November. They are desperate to get back on the winning trail and will draw confidence from beating us convincingly at the last World Cup two years ago in England."
Georgia arrived in Argentina after tour victories over Canada and the United States at the end of a long season for a squad composed largely of foreign-based professionals.
"Most of our players have just completed lengthy seasons in the French Top 14 and other European leagues. We trained for 15 days, travelled to Canada and the United States, and are now completing a week of intense work in preparation for the Pumas," he added.
The New Zealander said Georgian rugby is based around forwards with one of the best known, former captain and flank Mamuka Gorgodze, retiring this year having earned 71 caps.
"Our forwards love scrumming, rucking and mauling. It is part of the Georgian rugby DNA," he stated.
Having dominated second-tier European national team rugby for a decade, Georgia dream of competing in an expanded Six Nations Championship.
"We are ranked three places higher than Italy but have no desire to replace them. We want to be part of an enlarged tournament," Haig stressed.
England coach Eddie Jones supports Georgia getting a chance at a higher level, having won six of the last seven second-tier European Nations Cup tournaments.
"Georgia have enormous potential. They have a good gene pool for rugby and the infrastructure to push forward," Jones told the English media.
Argentina were once "outsiders", too, before joining Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the Super Rugby and Rugby Championship competitions. As Georgia push their case for more recognition, it will do them no harm to beat Argentina for the first time, having suffered four losses since first meeting in 2007.
The most recent defeat was also by far the heaviest, a 54-9 drubbing in a 2015 World Cup pool match in England. All the Georgian points in that match came from the boot of Merab Kvirikashvili, and the fullback has been in impressive form this month.
He scored all 13 points against Canada and another 14 against the United States with the other seven coming from a penalty try.
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Pablo Matera, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 German Schulz.
Date: Saturday, June 24
Venue: San Salvador de Jujuy
Kick-off: 16.15 (19.15 GMT, 23.15 GET)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy day can be expected with a high of 19°C
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)