Georgia fear backlash from desperate Argentina in rugby Test

San Salvador de Jujuy (Argentina) (AFP) - New Zealand-born Georgia coach Milton Haig fears a backlash from an Argentina team that has suffered five consecutive losses when they clash on Saturday in a one-off Test.

"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," Haig told reporters.

"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."

The New Zealander said Georgian rugby is based around forwards with one of the best known, former skipper and flanker Mamuka Gorgodze, retiring this year having earned 71 caps.

"Our forwards love scrumming, rucking and mauling. It is part of the Georgian rugby DNA," said Haig.

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," stressed Haig.

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," he told the English media. "They have a good gene pool for rugby and the infrastructure to push forward."

London Daily Mail rugby writer Chris Foy is another supporter of top-level exposure for Georgia.

"They are well financed and hugely supported with 50,000 crowds when Russia and other key rivals come to Tbilisi.

"They are the sixth best team at present (in Europe), but they are not part of the Six Nations Championship.

"A ring-fenced 'competition' has no integrity and those in the committee rooms are certainly not being helpful when it comes to genuinely driving the growth of the game."

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 Rugby World Cup pool match in England.

All the Georgian points in that match came from the boot of Merab Kvirikashvili, and the full-back 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.