19 mins: Can Australia find a different way to cut through their opponents? They test the Georgian pack strength from the scrum, with Skelton hauling them towards the line – but prop Taniela Tupou admits to a knock-on as he went to ground the ball.
17 mins: This young Australian side are gaining in confidence, with Nawaqanitawase and Petaia flipping the ball between them until a Georgian hand scrambles it away on the line. Australia scrum, five metres out …
15 mins: Nawaqanitawase’s awkward diagonal kick has Matkava lunging awkwardly to kill the ball behind the try-line. An edgy start from Georgia, in contrast to what might have been expected .
Australia 15-3 Georgia (Donaldson penalty) It’s never in doubt even from that distance. Donaldson was brought in by Jones, replacing Andrew Kellaway, partly to deliver consistent penalty points – and he’s made a good start there.
12 mins: A flying start from Australia and disappointment for Georgia, who really needed to try and grind their opponents down. Instead, it’s been an error-strewn start, with a first penalty conceded tempting Donaldson to go for goal from 46 metres …
Well then! Quick hands from Kerevi and Petaia keep the Wallabies moving, before Mark Nawaqanitawase finds space and bursts through in the right corner! Two tries in 10 minutes, and this time Donaldson nails the tricky extras.
8 mins: After the first of what could be many punishing scrums, Koroibete makes a terrific surge infield from a weak Georgia kick. He is short of options, though, and Georgia look to hold up the attack …
Australia 5-3 Georgia: Matkava slots the penalty over from 25 metres out, and the gap is down to two points when it could feasibly have been seven.
4 mins: Ben Donaldson misses the conversion from out wide, and there’s even better news for Georgia as Gordon’s kick is charged down. The fly-half then makes contact with Lobzhanidze in the air as he tries to snatch the ball back. Penalty to Georgia!
Well, that didn’t take long. Georgia fail to clear their lines from the start and when Australia push forward again, they find gaps in the defence before McDermott swept the ball wide to Jordan Petaia, who twists past two defenders to touch down.
The Wallabies, in their traditional gold and green, get us under way with Georgia in all-white.
Time for the anthems, with both teams lined up at a sweltering Stade de France. “Advance Australia Fair” is followed up by a full-bodied rendition of “Tavisupleba” (“Freedom”) – an anthem adopted in 2004 after Georgia’s bloodless revolution.
Out of Eddie Jones’ 23-man match day squad, 17 have never played a World Cup match. It’s a young, talented squad lacking in big-match experience, with Jones keeping one eye on building towards 2027, when they will host the tournament.
Georgia, by contrast, have bags of World Cup experience in their squad, which has 14 players based in France’s Top 14, the northern hemisphere’s strongest league. They also have Joe Worsley, a World Cup winner in 2003, in their backroom staff.
Not for the first time, Eddie Jones heads into a World Cup as his team’s biggest hype man – but it just might work if the players believe it too, writes Jonathan Liew.
Here’s Angus Fontaine on Australia’s World Cup prospects:
Our intro focused on the Wallabies, but what about the team trying to cause a shock today? Georgia are playing in their sixth straight World Cup and while they’ve never gone beyond the pool stage, they have held their own – winning twice in 2015, and a solitary game in 2007, 2011 and in 2019.
The bad news is that last time out, in Japan, the Lelos lost pool matches to Australia, Wales and Fiji. They are surely stronger this time out, with a landmark victory in Cardiff last year boosting their Six Nations claims. Their traditional pack power is complemented by back-field flair with the likes of Davit Niniashvili, a 21-year-old full back who could light up this tournament.
Ranked No 11 in the world to Australia’s No 9, they are still firm outsiders today despite their upturn in form and the Wallabies’ ongoing struggles. But they have arguably never had a better chance to shock former world champions than today, and these chances don’t come along often in this sport.
There was another lopsided contest in Pool A, with Italy running in seven tries as they beat Namibia 52-8. Hard to think of a more isolated team in terms of quality at this World Cup than the Azzurri – they will surely thrash Uruguay too, but look unlikely to lay a glove on either France or New Zealand.
Ireland conceded the first try against Romania in Bordeaux, but it’s been one-way traffic since. The world’s No 1 side currently lead
61-8 68-8 with 10 minutes left to play.
Australia: Donaldson, Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete, Gordon, McDermott; Bell, Porecki, Tupou, Arnold, Skelton (c), McReight, Hooper, Valentini.
Replacements: Faessler, Schoupp, Nonggorr, Leota, Gleeson, White, Foketi, Vunivalu
Georgia: Niniashvili, Tabutsadze; Tapladze, Sharikadze (c), Modebadze, Matkava, Lobzhanidze; Abuladze, Mamukashvili, Papidze, Cheishvili, Mikautadze, Jalaghonia, Ivanishvili, Gorgadze.
Replacements: Zamtaradze, Gogichashvili, Gigashvili, Jaiani, Tsutskiridze, Aprasidze, Abzhandadze, Kveseladze.
Is rugby union’s old order about to get shaken up? Much of the narrative around this World Cup’s early weeks has focused on the game’s snoozing and stumbling giants, and whether they have spotted the band of Tier 2 nations gathering speed in their rear-view mirror. Teams thankful for a kinder path towards the final are now fretting about even getting to the quarter-finals.
Australia, winners in 1991 and 1999, are certainly among that group. Eddie Jones’ side are narrow favourites to top Pool C, but they’ve got serious competition. Wales, Fiji (the pool’s top-ranked team) and today’s opponents, Georgia, will all see a path to the quarter-finals. The Wallabies, winless in five under Jones, are giants who could crumble with the first sling of a catapult.
An opening trilogy of Georgia, Fiji and then Wales (before facing the pool’s outsiders, Portugal) gives Jones and his callow team nowhere to hide – but that will suit the head coach. Jones has bottled World Cup magic with England, Japan, South Africa and, yes, Australia before – and it could happen again. High hopes and low expectations abound, but we’ll get a glimpse of the reality today. Kick-off is at 5pm BST.