World Cup Preview: Georgia
POOL D SPOTLIGHT: As a tier-two nation, Georgia is hoping the Rugby World Cup in Japan will bring it closer to its cherished dream of being part of rugby’s top table.
“Our global aim is to improve our ability to compete with the best teams in the world,” head coach Milton Haig told AFP, adding Georgia wants a seat “with the others at the top table”.
Georgia’s Rugby Union President Gocha Svanidze said it was the country’s “destiny” to be among rugby’s elite and “this year’s tournament will be a step in that direction,”
Georgia has competed in four World Cups since 2003, winning four matches and losing 12.
The country claimed its first World Cup win in 2007, beating Namibia 30-0, and had its best performance in 2015 when they finished third in a group for the first time and clinched an automatic spot in Japan.
Experienced centre Merab Sharikadze said his team’s “minimum programme” at this year’s World Cup is to do as well as they did four years ago.
“We hope to beat Fiji and Uruguay and repeat our achievement at the previous World Cup,” Sharikadze told AFP.
Haig says the objective is “automatic qualification to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France”
Twelfth in the world rankings, Georgia’s team – known as the Lelos – are named after an ancient village game seen in the country as an indigenous variant of modern-day rugby, which is now the country’s most popular sport.
The side from the tiny Black Sea nation of 3.7 million people have played in the Rugby Europe’s Championship, a level below the Six Nations, since 2000, winning the tournament 11 times.
Mamuka Gorgodze was a shock inclusion in the squad heading to Japan.
The 35-year-old loose forward, who plays for Toulon in the French Top 14, had announced the end of his international career in 2017 but is now set to feature at his fourth World Cup Scotland’s 44-10 hammering of Georgia on August 31 in Tbilisi, marked the first time a tier one
country had played a game in the ex-Soviet state.
Impressive results in Japan will encourage other nations to follow suit.
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Player to watch:
Beka Gorgadze. The 23-year-old back-rower is one of a dozen forwards in the squad based in France. The ball-carrying No 8 starred for Bordeaux-Begles in his first campaign with the club last season and has 18 Test caps to his name.
Aim for the tournament:
“We hope to beat Fiji and Uruguay and repeat our achievement at the previous World Cup tournament, when Georgia finished third in a group. That’s our minium programme” centre Merab Sharikadze.
Population: 3.7 million
Coach: Milton Haig (New Zealand/ December 2011)
Number of registered players: 11,133
World Rugby ranking: 12 (September 9, 2019)
World Cup past record:
1987: Did not compete (as part of the USSR)
1991: Did not qualify (as part of the USSR)
1995: Did not qualify
1999: Did not qualify
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Pool matches (all times GMT):
Georgia v Wales
Date: September 23
Venue: Toyota City
Georgia v Uruguay
Date: September 29
Georgia v Fiji
Date: October 3
Australia v Georgia
Date: October 11
Backs: Tedo Abzhandadze (Brive), Gela Aprasidze (Montpellier), Giorgi Begadze (Kochebi Bolnisi), Zurab Dzneladze (Locomotive Tbilisi), David Kacharava (Yenisei-STM), Lasha Khmaladze (Batumi), Giorgi Kveseladze (Armazi Marneuli), Vasil Lobzhanidze (Brive), Lasha Malaguradze (Krasny Yar Krasnoyarsk), Ioseb Matiashvili (Lelo Saracens), Tamaz Mchedlidze (Rouen), Mirian Modebadze (Aia Kutaisi), Merab Sharikadze (Aurillac), Alexander Todua (Batumi)
Forwards: Jaba Bregvadze (Sunwolves), Levan Chilachava (Montpellier), Beka Gigashvili (Toulon), Otar Giorgadze (Brive), Guram Gogichashvili (Racing 92), Beka Gorgadze (Bordeaux-Begles), Mamuka Gorgodze (Toulon), Vano Karkadze (Aurillac), Lasha Lomidze (Doncaster), Shalva Mamukashvili (Yenisey-STM Krasnoyarsk), Giorgi Melikidze (Stade Francais), Kote Mikautadze (Montpellier), Mikheil Nariashvili (Montpellier), Giorgi Nemsadze (Ospreys), Beka Saginadze (Aurillac), Shalva Sutiashvili (Soyaux-Angouleme), Giorgi Tkhilaishvili (Batumi)
— Georgian Rugby Union (@GeorgianRugby) September 11, 2019