Six Nations: Georgia coach Milton Haig wants team to join revamped competition

Milton Haig
Milton Haig became Georgia coach in 2011
Autumn internationals: Wales v Georgia
Date: Saturday, 18 November Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Before facing Wales for the first time, Georgia coach Milton Haig hopes a spot in a revamped Six Nations is the next step for his adopted nation.

A few years ago that might have seemed a fanciful suggestion, but Georgia - in 12th - are now a place ahead of Italy in the World Rugby rankings.

Heading to Wales after a 54-22 thrashing of Canada, Georgia hope to earn a seat at rugby's top table.

"The Six Nations is what we need," He told BBC Sport Wales in Tbilisi.

"We have talked about it for three years, it is what we need to improve our game.

"But also geographically, it is the place we naturally fit. So we are just hoping we get that opportunity one day and I know the new CEO of the RFU [Steve Brown] has said they want to be open-minded which is absolutely fantastic.

"We would love the opportunity. But we understand we need to keep putting runs on the board to gain that credibility."

Haig believes Georgia are "going the right way" to securing a place in the competition.

He said: "I am not sure on the logistics, it depends on the six partners already involved, but you could imagine it would be part of an expansion to the Six Nations, rather than promotion and relegation.

"Whichever way it is, if we get the opportunity, we will take it with both hands."

Georgia v New Zealand
Georgia lost 43-10 to the All Blacks in Cardiff in 2015 in the group stages of the World Cup

Excitement for first Wales encounter

Though Wales and Georgia have never met before, they will see plenty of each other in the next two years.

Not only do the teams face each other at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, they will also meet in the group stage at the 2019 World Cup.

Haig, who was born in New Zealand and is a long-time friend and former team-mate of Wales coach Warren Gatland, says this is a great chance for his side to make a mark against more established European opponents.

"We played the All Blacks in Cardiff in 2015, but to go back to play Wales, an iconic team and an iconic stadium, we are pretty rapt," he said.

"Because of the World Cup draw, it adds more interest.... we have always wanted these types of matches to help us improve and we are very grateful to Wales for giving us this opportunity.

"The boys have been talking about it for a long time.

"Wales are constantly in the top six in the world, so this is a great challenge for us.

"As a New Zealander, we always respect Wales. They have a huge reputation."

Southern Kings v Glasgow Warriors
South African side Southern Kings joined the expanded Pro14 tournament in 2017

Pro14 entry would help improve team

With Pro14 boss Martin Anayi saying discussions will continue regarding further expansion of the competition after the addition of South African franchises the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, Haig is hopeful at least one Georgian side will be competing in the competition sooner rather than later.

"In the long run, we want as many of our players as possible playing in the best competitions in the world," he said.

"We don't mind which hemisphere that is, but again, geographically, you would think being in a northern hemisphere competition would suit us better, which it would.

Rugby 'Georgia's most popular sport'

"That is all we are looking at. We are saying 'look, we are constantly searching for competitions that our players can play in, that will improve our individual play', for when we come together collectively as a national team.

"Whether it is Pro14, Top 14 or Pro D2 in France, or a super competition down south, we don't really mind, it is just continually making sure we can search for competitions to improve our play.

"Interest levels in rugby continue to grow in Georgia and we want that to continue. It is the most popular sport in the country now.

"Watching our 14, 15 and 16-year olds, it is scary, it is like watching the All Blacks coming through and we want more of that."

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