20 Sep 2015

Georgia upset Tonga at RWC

6:57 am on 20 September 2015

Other teams may now think twice before underestimating Georgia according to their New Zealand coach Milton Haig after his side's surprise 17-10 victory over Tonga in their Rugby World Cup opener.

Mamuka Gorgodze of Georgia is congratulated after scoring a try against Tonga.

Mamuka Gorgodze of Georgia is congratulated after scoring a try against Tonga. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It's just their third World Cup win and completed a record-breaking day for the east Europeans in Gloucester in which their 18-year-old halfback Vasil Lobzhanidze became the youngest player in World Cup history.

"I spoke to one of the Tongan players that I've coached in New Zealand and he said to me 15 minutes ago that maybe they underestimated us a little bit, that they were focusing on other games rather than us," Haig said post match.

"Because we're not one of those top-tier nations, we don't make the news a heck of a lot, so a whole lot of people don't know too much about us. Maybe they do underestimate us."

The grizzled but soft-spoken South Islander expects that to change now.

"With that victory today, I'm pretty sure some people will be reconsidering that," he said.

This morning's win, thanks to tries from captain Mamuka Gorgodze and flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, is a big step towards Haig's long-stated goal of securing third place in Pool C, which includes New Zealand and Argentina, and qualifying automatically for the 2019 tournament in Japan.

Haig praised the contributions of Gorgodze and darting halfback Lobzhanidze.

But he was not getting carried away after a performance that was built on the power of Georgia's forward pack but marred at times by mishandling, missed penalties and too many kicks that failed to find touch.

"I don't think we've reached the next level. When you can defeat a team like Argentina, Scotland or Samoa, then you can talk about getting to the next level," Haig told reporters.

Haig, whose team lost close warm-up matches against Canada and Japan and slipped to 16th in the world rankings before the Tonga match, added: "Our whole goal is to compete consistently with the top eight teams in the world.

"There's still a lot of water under the bridge for that to happen."