The Welsh side, named earlier than expected on Tuesday this week, shows six changes from the side that emphatically dismantled Australia 40-6 in their last outing to qualify for the last eight of the competition.
Fly-half Dan Biggar is the only absentee through injury, whilst the likes of Jac Morgan and Gareth Davies are rested, with Dewi Lake taking over the captaincy.
Having seen off Fiji, Portugal and the Wallabies, confidence in the Welsh camp is high, a sharp contrast to when the two sides last met in the Autumn internationals last November where Georgia secured a famous 13-12 victory in Cardiff.
Since the 60-year-old Kiwi’s return to the nation at the beginning of the year, Gatland has slowly managed to instill the winning mentality back into his side, something he believes is down to the players’ hard work and determination.
Keen to carry on the progress made by his side, Gatland feels making mass changes in his selection may have been detrimental to the cohesion of the team.
“These boys have worked extremely hard in the camps we’ve had. That’s put us in good shape to take our game forward, playing for 80 minutes and upping the detail the other coaches are bringing,” said Gatland.
“They have clarity about what they’re trying to achieve. I’ve been really impressed with their attitude and how they’ve gone out to play in the games. I think we didn’t get enough credit early on. I think when people look back, they’ll realise how tough these sides were.
“The message has been about continuing to improve as a side. We know we’re in the quarter-finals but we want to finish top of the group and win four from four.
“We want to keep building on confidence. It’s a real opportunity for those guys to come in. If you make eight or nine changes, you maybe don’t get that performance.
“Having continuity is a heck of a lot easier if you make only four or five changes. That was the thinking.
“We rested a few players. If you look at the back-row, we spoke about maybe making another change, but we’ve kept Aaron Wainwright and Taulupe Faletau. Tommy Reffell gets a chance to come in.
“Georgia are a tough team to put away. We’ve got huge respect. They throw the ball around and were really good against Fiji. They could easily have been more than nine ahead at half-time. We’re expecting a tough challenge from them.
“We’ve got a pretty much clean bill of health in terms of no injuries, and we haven’t lost any players.
“That’s hugely important for a country like Wales. We’ve got such a small playing base that if we pick up too many injuries, something that has happened to us in the past, we’ve got to the quarter-finals and semi-finals and that’s had quite a significant impact on us.
“There’s been a bit of an edge about training. I’m really pleased with the boys and their approach to this game. We are in a good spot at the moment.”
[Lead image: Welsh Rugby Union]
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