LELO LELO SAQARTVELO

I don’t know what the referees are thinking as regards high tackles at this World Cup. Getting clotheslined when running at pace by a solid tree trunk of an arm is incredibly dangerous and could easily cause a very serious head injury.

Yet players are still getting away with it nearly scot-free. The only player to suffer a meaningful penalty so far because of a high tackle was the Australian Reece Hodge for his reckless foul on the team that dished one out today, Fiji.

If Fiji had been down to 14 men, that might have compensated for the fact that Georgia had the nightmare four-day turnaround to contend with, which was a large part of why Fiji lost to Uruguay. In the end, though, the cards stayed in the referee’s pocket.

With both high tackles and lack of rest days, it’s been a case of swings and roundabouts for the Islanders. However, their spectacular late show of running, which yielded four tries, does deserve much credit, regardless of the earlier misdemeanour and tired Georgian legs.

I had actually seen this match-up before, in the country where I, strangely enough, have seen more international rugby than anywhere else, Georgia. It only cost a few lari to get into the stadium and nobody was checking tickets, so I got to see both Japan vs Georgia and Fiji vs Georgia in 2012 for peanuts.

The Lelos (“lelo” is a Georgian form of rugby with a long history) beat Japan back then, but lost to the Fijians. I can’t help but think it may have had something to do with the rather ill-advised decision by the crowd to start booing the “Cibi” (the Fijian haka) before kick-off. The visitors were, understandably, pretty riled up after that and flew into their tackles with that extra bit of vigour, shooting into an insurmountable early lead.

Georgia is the home of wine as well as the best comfort food I have ever come across, “adjaruli chaczapuri”. After eating the melted cheese, butter and egg swimming in deliciously baked bread, your heart will be singing but you’ll barely be able to move. Whenever I had one during my time there, it had to be my only meal of the day.

Osaka, where today’s game took place, is also no slouch when it comes to comfort food, being the home of both takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake). If you’re looking for some hearty fare before the rugby and/or a night out, you cannot go far wrong with either option.

In the other game of the day, Ireland got over their Japan hangover to take a comfortable bonus point win over Russia. The Russians did not give in easily, though, making an incredible 182 tackles over the 80 minute encounter.

The action returns to Shizuoka tomorrow, where Italy will take on South Africa. The winner of the game is pretty much guaranteed a quarter-final berth at the expense of the loser, so there’s a lot riding on it.

That quarter-final place may well be in a match against the hosts, which means a repeat of the Brighton game four years ago is a distinct possibility. Japan vs South Africa 2? Yes please.

(Today’s image is of Georgia vs Scotland in Dinamo Tbilisi’s Boris Paichadze Stadium. Thank you to Irakli Giorgadze for his kind permission to use the photo).

Today’s Matches
Fiji 45-10 Georgia (Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka)
Ireland 35-0 Russia (Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)

Tomorrow’s Match
South Africa vs Italy (1845 JST) (Shizuoka Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka)

Expression of the day
大阪弁が話せますか? (oosaka ben ga hanasemasu ka)
Which means…
Can you speak the Osaka dialect?

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