12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
IRELAND v GEORGIA, Stade Chaban Delmas, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time (live TV3/UTV/Setanta Sports)
Universally frustrated by the lacklustre win over Namibia, the Irish squad look primed for some retribution against Georgia, whom they last faced five years ago in a World Cup qualifier.
Confident his side will lift their game, Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll spoke yesterday of the "narkiness" that has been evident on the training pitch at Stade Bordelais this week.
"There's been a real competitive edge and the players have been having a bit of a go at each other in training. No one's been holding back. But that's a good step forward to hopefully playing better against the Georgians," O'Driscoll said.
Coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who has made one change to the side that started the 32-17 victory over Namibia, concurred with his skipper, adding: "There's a real buzz in the camp. We had a particularly hard hit-out on Tuesday. It's always a bit of a risk letting the dogs loose at training because someone can get hurt, but the atmosphere's been really great all week."
The one change is personnel sees the return of Shane Horgan, who has bounced back from a knee ligament strain, to the right wing, with finger injury victim Andrew Trimble dropping to the replacements bench.
The game marks number eight Denis Leamy's 25th appearance for his country while blindside flanker Simon Easterby is winning his 60th Irish cap.
Centre O'Driscoll is equalling Brendan Mullin's Irish World Cup caps record of 11 games and the Leinster star could also take Keith Wood's Irish World Cup try-scoring record with a single try - his sixth touchdown in tournament history.
An altogether more consistent game is called for from Ireland if they are to have genuine hopes of making it out of Pool D - they need to tighten things up at the breakdown and lineout, build on the good scrum work put in against the Namibians, concentrate on building through the phases, erase the handling errors and most importantly play to the potential that they unquestionably have.
There is added pressure on their shoulders tonight. They need a top drawer performance to build some momentum heading into the Stade de France showdown with France next Friday.
The winning margins in Ireland's only two previous games against Georgia were 70 and 47 points. The eastern Europeans, dogged in defence and up front but quite limited in attack, kept Argentina to 30 points last Tuesday in Lyon, so a winning spread of 30-40 points - with four or more tries - and a rekindling of their Six Nations form would be a satisfying return for O'Sullivan's men.
The Georgians can be exposed out wide so expect Ronan O'Gara to put up more than a few cross-field kicks in the direction of returning winger Horgan.
Also in Ireland's favour is the fact that Georgia have made eleven changes to the team they started with against the Pumas. A mix of first and second choice players will be in red tonight and more than a few nerves, but Merab Kvirikashvili is a steadying presence at number 10.
Georgian coach Malkhaz Tcheishvili has rested some key players - including tighthead prop Davit Zirakachvili and winger Iraki Machkhaneli - with an eye on the September 26 clash with Namibia, which is certainly their best ever chance of posting a World Cup win.
Conditions are unlikely to be a factor tonight as it is a clear, dry night in Bordeaux with a light wind not expected to cause the kickers concern.
Winger Denis Hickie, who is part of an all-Leinster back three, reckons Ireland need to take a leaf out of Australia's book after they piled on the points in the second half of their 91-3 thumping of Japan.
"Australia's performance is something we should have emulated (against Namibia). Even at half-time they weren't up by that much. They didn't panic, just kept plugging at it. We just got worse," Hickie admitted.
"If we cut out the individual errors then we will go a long way to getting back to where we were - that's what we must focus on against Georgia."
2003 World Cup Qualifying - September 28, 2002: Ireland 63 Georgia 14, Lansdowne Road, Dublin
1998 Test Match - November 14, 1998: Ireland 70 Georgia, Lansdowne Road, Dublin
IRELAND: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie; Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Simon Best, Malcolm O'Kelly, Neil Best, Isaac Boss, Paddy Wallace, Geordan Murphy.
GEORGIA: Otar Barkalaia; Giorgi Elizbarashvili, Revaz Gigauri, Davit Kacharava, Giorgi Shkinin; Merab Kvirikashvili, Bidzina Samkharadze; Mamuka Magrakvelidze, Goderzi Shvelidze, Avtandil Kopaliani, Ilia Zedginidze (capt), Mamuka Gorgodze, Ilia Maisuradze, Rati Urushadze, Giorgi Chkhaidze.
Replacements: Akvsenti Giorgadze, David Khinchagashvili, Levan Datunashvili, Zviad Maisuradze, Irakli Abuseridze, Malkhaz Urjukashvili, Otar Eloshvili.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Touch Judges: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland), Paul Marks (Australia)
Television Match Official: Federico Cuesta (Argentina)