Rugby World Cup 2011

Georgia on track for success

2011-08-20 15:48
Davit Zirakashvili (File)

Paris - Rugby is on the rise in Georgia and the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand could be the perfect showcase to show just how much progress has been made on the field of play.

The sport has been adopted and is receiving massive government support. Two new rugby stadia have been just been built in Tblisi and the playing base has leapt from 2 500 to 5 000 since the last World Cup.

The best of them, players like props Davit Zirakashvili (Clermont), Davit Kubriashvili (Toulon) and Goderdzi Shvelidze (Montpellier) or number eight Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier), are playing in France's Top 14.

Georgia is here to stay as a rugby nation and at some point will begin to challenge the old order. But probably not just yet.

"I think this World Cup may have come a year too early for us," their Scottish coach Richie Dixon, who only took over last summer, said.

"Georgia has always played a very forward dominated game and we are trying to adapt that to bring the backs into the game. We want to find the balance between warrior and artist.

"This year we will do our best but I really believe that the way things are going, in four years time Georgia will be looking seriously at getting out of the group stage."

Georgia are going into their third World Cup. In 2003, they were beaten heavily by England, Samoa and South Africa and were disappointed to lose also to Uruguay.

Four years ago, however, in the comfortable quasi-home surroundings of France, they forced people to take notice, giving Argentina a decent test - the Pumas only led 6-3 at the break - and then taking Ireland to the wire.

The Irish won 14-10 but it was the Georgians who collared the headlines.

This time around things will be tougher because of that game against Ireland and Georgia's continued dominance of what one might call the European second division.

"The surprise element has gone for sure," says Dixon.

Their opponents this time are England, Scotland, Argentina again and Romania, the side they have effectively usurped as Europe's seventh best.

"The match against Romania is going to be a big one for both countries. We know each other very well now so it will be very tight," says Dixon.

"Obviously we want to win that one but we are also aware that it is how we perform in the other games that matters. We want to play good rugby, show what we can do and give the folks at home something to smile about."


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