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Georgia call out Wales for de facto Six Nations play-off

Tommy Reffell braces to tackle
Wales beat Georgia in last year's World Cup group stage but were defeated the year before in Cardiff - REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Wales said they will be in touch with Georgia after the Lelos invited them to play them in Tbilisi this autumn at the end of a week of debate over the merits of a relegation play-off for the the bottom-placed finishers in the Six Nations.

Georgia won the Rugby Europe Championship last Sunday, beating Portugal 36-10 in the final at Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris. It was their seventh title in a row and their 17th since 2000, with Richard Cockerill, their head coach, claiming “we’re probably a little bit too good for this competition.”

Wales had been consigned to the Six Nations wooden spoon the previous afternoon, going down to Italy 24-21 in Cardiff.

A press release from the Georgian Rugby Union (GRU) cited the comments of Sam Warburton, the former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain, who suggested that a play-off would be “brilliant”. Hours later, the Welsh Rugby Union’s official X account replied “We’ll be in touch”.

Ioseb Tkemaladze, the president of the GRU, had explained that Wales would be welcome to a double-header.

‘It’s my great pleasure to invite our dear friends from Wales to play Georgia in Tbilisi this autumn,” he said. “After a thrilling Six Nations and Georgia’s seventh success in a row in the Rugby Europe Championship, it’s the fixture rugby fans everywhere are crying out, for so I really hope the Welsh can take up our invitation.

“Of course we’d be equally happy to play them in Cardiff – where we won a famous victory in 2022. Maybe a double-header can be arranged. There is a strong connection between our two proud rugby nations, and we have had some exciting contests recently. We are rugby brothers.

“As the great former Wales and British Lions captain Sam Warburton said this week, it’s what rugby lovers everywhere want to see! It would be my honour to host Wales in Tbilisi. I’m confident we would get a record crowd and I would be especially proud to invite Welsh supporters to come and experience our unique Georgian hospitality.”

Wales beat Georgia 43-19 at last year’s World Cup to avenge their 13-12 loss the previous year at the Principality Stadium. Warren Gatland’s side are due to face South Africa on June 22 at Twickenham before travelling to Australia for a two-match series against the Wallabies.

According to the Sky Sports website, Wales’ schedule of November matches comprises Fiji on November 10 before meetings with Australia on November 17 and the Springboks on November 23. However, none of these matches have been officially confirmed by the Welsh Rugby Union.

In 2022, Andy Robinson, then head coach of Romania, explained that a relegation play-off between the Six Nations and the Rugby Europe Championship would at least stir ambition among the second tier of European teams.

“By giving other European nations an opportunity to go up, it will encourage an increase in development for the rugby programmes in those countries,” he told Telegraph Sport. “That will create a more competitive World Cup, which is what rugby needs in 20 years’ time.

“Overall, I would like to see a relegation game, but I don’t feel there would be another European team in [the Six Nations] for 10 years.”

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