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Lack of quality games holding Georgia back - Doak 


Neil Doak. Photo: Sportsfile

Neil Doak. Photo: Sportsfile

Neil Doak. Photo: Sportsfile

Having represented Ireland at cricket and coached the rugby team, Neil Doak is looking forward to pitting his wits against Andy Farrell and Co on Sunday.

After leaving Worcester last summer to run his own business, ND Sports Consultancy, the former Ulster supremo joined David Humphreys in taking a short-term position with Georgia as they looked to make a mark on the Autumn Nations Cup from a standing start.

Having been frozen out of the elite end of the European game for so long, the invitation for the Lelos came when they were at a weak point.

After the World Cup in 2019, they lost Mamuka Gorgodze and a couple of other senior players to retirement, while the pandemic has left their domestic tournament in limbo.

In the last couple of years, their U-20s have impressed at the World Cup and they are seeing the fruits of that labour now as they look to become a more expansive team.

"It's been really good. Over the period of time, the players have got better," Doak said of the experience. "The cohesion has definitely improved. Levan Maisashvili, the head coach, asked me to tinker with some of the attacking stuff and introduce a few things; they took it up pretty well but I don't think they had a good understanding of it.

"It's encouraging in such a short space of time, but playing against the likes of Ireland, they're nowhere near where they need to be and that's just a lack of quality competition on a regular basis. That's the biggest stumbling block for Georgia.

"I don't think the scrum and set-piece has gone as well as the players would like. They're better than what they've shown.

"It's just a lack of rugby, some of the players haven't played since the last World Cup. It's quite difficult.

"We want to win the games, but you've got to be realistic. You're playing against England at Twickenham, Wales was one game we thought we could keep it really tight and we did, but we, unfortunately, missed four or five counter-attacking opportunities that we didn't identify.

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"That's the biggest thing I've tried to change in their mindset. That's what Levan was focused on in this tournament, their attack structures and counter-attack.

"Trying to grow that part of the game, because he realises they have to have a little bit more in their game-plan to stretch teams because it's very hard to dominate teams physically."

Although none of his friends and family can come to the game, Doak is relishing the trip home.

"It'll be good to catch up with the players," he said.

"It will be interesting being on the other side of the fence. David and I are looking forward to it, we know Ireland are going to be looking to put on a show.

"Hopefully we can be competitive and put Ireland under some pressure and see how they cope with that. It'll be interesting. It will be strange, but it will be a good day."

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