KUMAGAYA, SAITAMA PREF. – Juan Manuel Gaminara had the Uruguay flag draped over his shoulders and struggled to hold back tears as he described how proud he was of his team in its upset Rugby World Cup win over Fiji.
His Uruguayan team will have had three days to recover from its most significant win ever at the tournament before chasing another milestone.
Uruguay has never won more than one game at a single Rugby World Cup, so that’s goal No. 1 when it meets Georgia on Sunday.
The Georgians lost 43-14 to Six Nations champion Wales in their Pool D opening game and have an extra two days to prepare.
Georgia made 12 changes to its starting lineup for the game at Kumagaya; Uruguay made two.
Gaminara and his team will be playing on passion, which is what they relied on in a 30-27 win over a Fiji lineup that had taken two-time champion Australia to the limit for an hour in its previous game. The Fijians were supposed to be causing the upsets in this group, but they were trumped.
“I’m really proud of my country. We’re not the biggest, we’re not the tallest, but we came here to win,” Gaminara said in his post-game TV interview, choking back tears and taking deep breaths to compose himself. “We never had anything granted. You saw the passion.”
Uruguay won its only previous Rugby World Cup game against Georgia, in 2003, but the Georgians have won the last three meetings.
Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses made just two changes to his forward pack in a bid to meet the Georgian strength, with Juan Pedro Rombys replacing Diego Arbelo at tighthead and Alejandro Nieto starting at No. 8 at the expense of Manuel Diana.
The Fijians scored five tries to three but the boot of Felipe Berchesi, who scored a Uruguayan record 15 points in the game, was the difference in that game. Berchesi will direct the attack again.
Winger Giorgi Kveseladze, flyhalf Tedo Abzhandadze and lock Konstantine Mikautadze were the only Georgian players retained in the starting XV after the loss to Wales.
Veteran hooker Jaba Bregvadze, who was yellow-carded after going on as a replacement against Wales, will lead Georgia for the first time. He plays for the Sunwolves, the Japan-based Super Rugby club, and should get a lot of crowd support.
He’s in charge because of a hectic timetable that makes it important for Georgia to rotate players.
“First of all, it’s a tough schedule for us to play three games in 10 days,” assistant coach Levan Maisashvili said. “Some players played big minutes (against Wales) and we have to give a rest to some of them. We have 31 players and all of them are waiting for their opportunity.”
Keeping some seasoned test veterans out of the squad gave younger players a chance, he said, but Georgia would be taking nothing for granted.
“Uruguay showed us that they will fight for everything . . . in every single area of the field,” Maisashvili said. “We are waiting for them to do that. Uruguay are a team who can play with heart, as well as us, so I think it will be a good game.”
Lock Lasha Lomidze said Uruguay’s win over Fiji had changed some perceptions about the group.
“Everybody says that we should win this game, but we should consider that Uruguay has beaten Fiji and that was a surprise,” he said. “This is a great example for us for future matches but, in this game, we need to make sure that the only side creating a surprise will be Georgia.”
Georgia: Lasha Khmaladze, Zura Dzneladze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Lasha Malaguradze, Alexander Todua, Tedo Abzhandadze, Gela Aprasidze; Otari Giorgadze, Beka Saginadze, Shalva Sutiashvili, Konstantine Mikautadze, Lasha Lomidze, Levan Chilachava, Jaba Bregvadze (captain), Guram Gogichashvili. Reserves: Vano Karkadze, Beka Gigashvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Mamuka Gorgodze, Beka Gorgadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Merab Sharikadze, Soso Matiashvili.
Uruguay: Gaston Mieres, Nicolas Freitas, Juan Manuel Cat, Andres Vilaseca, Rodrigo Silva, Felipe Berchesi, Santiago Arata; Alejandro Nieto, Santiago Civetta, Juan Manuel Gaminara (captain), Manuel Leindekar, Ignacio Dotti, Juan Pedro Rombys, German Kessler, Mateo Sanguinetti. Reserves: Facundo Gattas, Juan Echeverria, Diego Arbelo, Diego Magno, Juan Diego Ormaechea, Manuel Ardao, Agustin Ormaechea, Leandro Leivas
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5