Dixon warns Ireland rugby stars: Watch out for Georgia

By Barry Coughlan in Bucharest

Former Scotland and Glasgow coach Richie Dixon expects Georgia and Romania to make a big impact on northern hemisphere rugby in the coming decade.

He has even warned Ireland to watch out when the Georgians come to the Aviva Stadium in November for an Autumn Test, having been boosted by the contribution of ex-Ireland international, Connacht and Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley.

Dixon is an IRB High Performance consultant with special remit for Georgia and Romania, while Bradley has been one of his coaching and consultant sidekicks these last few years, before the rugby World cup in 2011 and now in advance of England 2015.

“The game has been progressing slowly but surely in the two countries. I don’t think we will ever see promotion and relegation from the Six Nations Championship in my lifetime, but I do think we have to look at how we use the November international window,” said Dixon in Bucharest .

“The more often that teams like Georgia, Romania, Japan, the US, Canada, Russia and the South Pacific Island teams can play against the top nations, even if just in one-off games each year, the more chance they would have to make a real impact.”

“Michael Bradley has made a real impact in Georgia because he has helped develop the backs, both defensively and in attack.

“Both countries are born for rugby because genetically they produce forwards, so the trick has been to develop back play to bring more balance and give them more shots in the locker.

“The concentration really has been doing work with the young boys from Under 18’s through to under 20’s, it’s not so much about having them win games but getting them to develop skills that will be required to move up into the senior ranks.

“Michael and others have helped considerably in that development.”

Dixon believes that both Georgia and Romania have now moved ahead of Russia and others in the race to join the top European nations.

“I must say I am very pleased with both countries; the federations are more modernised now, the coaching, administration, financial streams are much better and they are hungry to get better,” he said.

“Since the last World Cup in New Zealand, both of them have made good progress. A lot of it is due to the fact that there are better systems underneath for developing the players, so it is very encouraging.

“Russia is a bit more difficult country in so far as they have huge distances to travel to get together, to train and play, their main clubs are in Moscow and Siberia and because of the weather in January, February and March they have to play in Sochi in the south.

“It’s very difficult for them logistically to bring things together. Also (for political reasons) they participate more often than Romania and Georgia in the Sevens tournaments and I think at the moment they are falling a bit between two stools.

“You try to transplant Sevens boys into the 15-a-side game and that’s virtually impossible because the two games are so different.”

In Georgia and Romania, says Dixon, things are taking a different shape.

“They are made for the 15 man game and they have the ability to complete up front. There are very few teams that will bully them and if they continue to get the back play right and develop that, they will provide a fair match for anyone,” he said.

“They have the potential but it’s only potential and it is early days yet; the important game for Georgia is in November when they play Ireland between the Australia and South African matches.

“That will give us all a much better idea of what the yard stick is.”

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