Georgia's big shot for a Six Nations spot
SPOTLIGHT: Newly-appointed Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili said his side’s inclusion in the upcoming Nations Cup is a chance to prove their ability to be included in the Six Nations.
The Lelos along with Fiji have been invited to the tournament held in Europe between November 13-December 6 in fixtures which will replace the Autumn Test cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Georgians were included in the competition as replacements for Japan who withdrew because of fears over Covid-19.
Maisashvili’s side have longed to join the top table by featuring in the Six Nations but have never beaten a side in the competition and sit in 12th place in the world rankings.
“We only play Tier One teams twice a year, that’s our main problem. If we had more chances, we would get to a point where we would be ready for the Six Nations,” Maisashvili told AFP.
“We’re going to play against stronger teams than us and the tournament will be a great occasion to absorb their experience,” he added.
“If we win a game, it would be magnificent, of course, but our goal is to show our best qualities, and to gain the maximum experience.”
Test veterans in loose forward Mamuka Gorgodze, centre Davit Kacharava and flank Vito Kolelishvili have retired since last year’s World Cup and the opening games of this season’s Rugby Europe Championship.
Bordeaux-Begles’ 24-year-old Beka Gorgodze captained his country from No.8 in their last match, a victory over Portugal in March, and backs Gela Aprasidze, Lasha Lomidze and Tedo Abzhandadze, all under 23 and playing for clubs outside of Georgia, came off the bench.
“We miss Mamuka enormously. It’s a big loss, without any doubt, but not surprising,” he said.
“We’re currently in the process of changing generations. Quite a lot of experienced players have left, but a new complement is arriving with very promising youngsters,” he added.
Preparations for the tournament are hardly ideal for the Georgians. While many play in the French Top 14, which is back underway, the home-based players are suffering from lack of action.
The Georgian Big 10 league is yet to begin since being halted due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“It’s a negative factor which worries us,” said Maisashvili. “Our season starts on October 7, we’ll play one round but we also have two to three full contact training sessions a week.”
The problems have extended to the boardroom as well with the national rugby union (GRU) in turmoil after the resignation in August of president Giorgi Gorgaslidze.
Last month, domestic clubs wrote a letter to the GRU saying they were in a financial crisis but Maisashvili said his outfit would be ready by the start of November.
Maisashvili was defence coach at last year’s World Cup and replaced the long-serving Milton Haig in the top job after the tournament.
The Kiwi, who came on board after the 2011 World Cup, guided the Lelos to a third-placed pool finish at the 2015 edition in England, a win over Uruguay at the 2019 tournament, and seven successive Ruugy Europe Championships.
“It’s a big responsibility and a big honour to succeed Milton Haig and all my predecessors, to follow Georgia’s rich rugby tradition,” said Maisashvili.
Georgia face Scotland in a warm-up Test on October 23 before opening their Autumn Series campaign against England at Twickenham on November 13.