'He is probably one of the best players in the world'
SPOTLIGHT: Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze once played at Twickenham alongside England’s Jonny Hill and Ellis Genge at college level… now they are preparing to face off on the international stage.
Six Nations champions England host Georgia in their opening Nations Cup tie on Saturday.
Nine years ago centre Sharikadze joined Exeter lock Hill at Hartpury College in southwest England, with Genge also part of their successful squad.
Together the trio helped the college clinch silverware at Twickenham in 2012 and this weekend they will be back there, with Hill hoping to make a first start on home soil.
“That was quite a good experience,” Sharikadze said. “They are very good boys and good friends of mine. I wish them the best of luck and I learnt a lot from them.
“Both of them were quite special. I remember, probably Jonny doesn’t, but we were going together to college at the same time as playing for the Hartpury College team.
“One day he was upset about something, I can’t remember what, and saying he would probably never make the big rugby.
“But I was looking at him thinking ‘just wait, you will be one of the best in world’ and he probably doesn’t even remember that. I do and he deserves it. He is probably one of the best players in the world now.”
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 9, 2020
Georgia are only involved in the eight-team Nations Cup because travel logistics complicated by coronavirus ruled out Japan’s participation.
After facing England, Levan Maisashvili will take his squad to Wales and Ireland for further Group A fixtures and the tournament will conclude for the side ranked world number 12 with a match at Murrayfield on December 5.
Sharikadze said: “When we finish this tournament, if we know we are a better team than before the start then we have had a Nations Cup. I am pretty sure we will. We are very motivated.”
Maisashvili, who stepped up from defence coach after the World Cup last year, is excited to go toe to toe with England coach Eddie Jones.
“It is a good opportunity, Eddie is the best coach. It is a fact,” he said.
“To play against England is also a big opportunity. It will be hard but it is good for our players, for me and also very interesting.”