Hines believes Scotland have the variety to defeat Georgia
Nathan Hines was part of the only other Scotland side to face Georgia back in the 2011 World Cup and admitted that they perhaps underestimated the east Europeans in that pool match in Invercargill.
The Scotland assistant is adamant that there is no chance of a repeat in Kilmarnock this afternoon, with all the players and coaching staff fully aware of the improvements the opposition have made and how formidable a challenge they have become.
Hines reflected on the 15-6 victory five years ago, when Dan Parks kicked the Scots to an uninspiring, grinding victory over a side that was then coached by Scotsman Richie Dixon.
“We didn’t score a try in that game and we were quite lucky if I’m being truthful,” recalled Hines.
“We didn’t give them as much respect as they deserved. We need to respect the team and where they have come from.
“People who don’t respect them, do so at their peril as they are a very good team. They are certainly better now than they were back then, not as one dimensional, they understand the game a bit more.
“On a dry pitch they will be able to use the skills we saw from them at the World Cup.”
Scotland go into today’s match at Rugby Park hoping to finish the autumn Test series on a high note and build on the performances posted already this month against Australia and Argentina.
Former lock Hines joined Vern Cotter’s staff as a “resource coach” working with the national team and academy prospects, but he will leave with his old Clermont Auvergne boss Cotter to assist him at Montpellier next season and is looking forward to that new adventure back in France, where he also played for Perpignan during his fine 77-cap career.
“I’m excited. Scotland is a small place when it comes to positions for coaching, so I was happy that there was something there for me if there wasn’t something of the same position here,” said Hines. “It will be good to get back and get my hands dirty a little more often. I loved playing for Scotland. I love doing this job. Like when I was playing, I think I’ll appreciate it more [i.e coaching Scotland] when I’ve stopped.”
Hines insists the last few games under he and Cotter’s guidance are all about the players and not about them, and he is fully focused on helping get that win today against opponents who are keen to show they belong at the top table of European rugby.
The former Edinburgh forward has plenty of experience playing with and against Georgian opponents during his time in France and continued the prevailing theme which has framed this week’s build-up – that this will be a serious Test match to round off the year.
“There is more to Georgia than there used to be. They can do more things now,” said Hines.
“They are more skilful, they can play different types of game, they can expand on their game a bit more now. It’s always good to have that base of having the strength in their forwards to work off.
“If you can count on your scrum and your lineout then you can disrupt other teams. You can then take time to develop other parts of your game.”
Hines naturally takes a particular interest in the second row and added his voice to the growing chorus of appreciation for the Gray brothers’ partnership, which is reunited today after Richie recovered from a possible concussion which forced him out of the 19-16 win over Argentina last weekend.
“In their own right they are outstanding rugby players but together they have an understanding,” said Hines.
“They understand each other and can talk to each other more than as if it was just another team-mate. They spend a lot of time together which is good for second rows as they can talk about the game.
“It makes it easy for me, Vern and [forwards coach] Jon Humphreys that they share their knowledge with the rest of the guys.
“It’s a good partnership and we are lucky to have them.”
For his part, Richie Gray is raring to go after the frustration of missing the Pumas Test and the Toulouse lock is another who is familiar with many of the imposing Georgian pack through his time playing in the French Top 14.
“The head feels much better and I’m looking forward to getting back playing,” said the 27-year-old, who will be winning his 61st cap today.
“It’s great to be back here at Kilmarnock. Obviously we have fond memories from the last time here when we got a great win over Tonga and had good support.
“We hope for the same. It’s a change up, a fresh environment and on a quick surface so hopefully it should be a good game.”
He is expecting nothing less than a full-blown encounter.
“I play against them quite regularly. In fact we have the loosehead prop who plays for us in Toulouse,” said Gray. “They are very abrasive players, very strong and aggressive and we expect that.
“They’ve got a very good scrum, which gives them great access into the game, whether it be a launch or a penalty from that.
“They’re very good in mauls and general forward play.
“It’s certainly one of the biggest tests this forward pack will face in the coming years so we’ll need to be on top of our game.
“Off the pitch they’re great guys but as soon as they get on it they’re tough characters. I’ve played against the second row at Montpellier and against [skipper Mamuka] Gorgodze a couple of times.
“They’re abrasive boys and it will be a very tough Test for us.”